GPL v3 Is Here -- What Next?

Lora Bentley

If, like me, you were out of the office on Friday, you missed the big announcement: GPL v3 has arrived. Finally. After 18 months of a draft process that nearly split the open source world in two, the license is available at gnu.org.


This ZDNet UK piece indicates the same thing that experts on the subject have told IT Business Edge in recent weeks: For those using GPL v3 software, the impact of the changes to the license will be minimal. Those who write and release software, on the other hand, will "have some digesting to do," according to Hunton & Williams intellectual property attorney James Harvey, who is quoted in the story.


ZDNet's Steven Shankland sets out the changes in the license as follows:

The licence carries an explicit patent grant, meaning any entity that contributes software to a GPL project grants with it a perpetual, royalty-free licence to any of the entity's patents that apply to the software.


A provision to block future deals similar to that struck by Novell and Microsoft, in which Microsoft sells coupons to Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server that mean customers don't have to worry about Microsoft patent infringement lawsuits. Under the GPLv3, the foundation argues that all GPL software users will benefit from the Novell-Microsoft deal and others like it: "If you arrange to provide patent protection to some of the people who get the software from you, that protection is automatically extended to everyone who receives the software, no matter how they get it," said Brett Smith, the foundation's licensing-compliance engineer.


The anti-"tivoization" provision, intended to ensure that the owner of a device that uses GPL software can change that software. TiVo personal video recorders use Linux, but the foundation objects to measures that mean it doesn't work if an owner modifies the software.

Though the final version of the license does not include terms that close the ASP loophole as many had hoped it would, an FSF blog post explains that the loophole will be addressed by a new license the Free Software Foundation will write called the Affero GPL v2. The blog post indicates that "first stakeholders" are currently considering proposed provisions for the new license.


Reaction to the GPL v3 among corporate open source contributors is mixed at this point, according to ZDNet UK. IBM is ready to roll. Big Blue's vice president of open systems development had this to say:

GPLv3 code will be flowing from IBM... We'll tell our customers we're fine with it.

MySQL, on the other hand, is being a little more cautious. The company's vice president of community says:

GPLv3 is still something people are asking questions about. Our logic is that we don't want to be those that answer those very first questions.

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