Free-Software Advocates Defend GPLv3

The language in the latest version of the General Public License is simpler and more universal than in previous forms, despite whatever objections Linus Torvalds may have, one licensee says.
Free software advocates are defending revisions to the General Public License, while critics emerge to oppose the most recent version.

The FSF and the Software Freedom Law Center released the second discussion draft of the GNU GPL version 3. The draft marks the halfway point of a yearlong public review process for proposing changes and finalizing the GPLv3.

Soon after its release, one of the highest profile software developers under the current license blasted the revisions and the process, saying it has not allowed for real opposition.

Linus Torvalds, who helped create the open source operating system Linux, also took issue with clauses that would restrict Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology when it is used to prevent people from sharing or modifying GPLv3-covered software.

David Sugar, whose works on the GNU Bayonne telephony platform has provided insights about the interaction of software and proprietary hardware systems, said the license allows him to offer others the same opportunities and freedoms he receives through GPL.

"Some choose to believe they have a right to develop software with the help of and knowledge found in the world at large, and yet deny that same right to others," he said in an e-mail this week. "As such, I personally see the question of proprietary software as anti-social, and the question of the GNU GPL as an instrument to prevent my contributions and advantages from being denied to others. Given that, I find the GNU GPLv3 remains fully consistent with the goals and purposes of the GNU GPLv2 and prior."

Sugar said the language in the latest version is simpler and more universal than in previous forms.

Sugar, also a member of the Free Software Foundation's DotGNU steering committee, declined to speak on behalf of any particular group but said he believes that clauses restricting Digital Rights Management only clarify points that were implied in previous drafts.

John Sullivan, program administrator for the FSF, said the group is striving to engage all people who encounter software under the license.

"It is our view that the new draft texts and rationale for changes show that the process is having an effect -- that it is helping to improve the license texts from the original drafts," he told TechWeb. "In addition to comments about the license, we have received and acted on comments about the process itself, and we continue to be open to concrete suggestions as to how we can do a better job. If people feel that they are not being heard, then I hope they will let us know specifically why they think that and suggest a better approach."

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