The Free Software Foundation plans to release the latest version of the free software license, GPLv3, on Friday. After 18 months of drafts, meetings, feedback, disagreements, and revision, the group released a statement indicating that the finished version includes new defenses for free software.
"These defenses will continue the long history of fighting all efforts to make free software proprietary," the statement said.
"Beyond the creation of an improved license, the process of drafting version 3 has helped highlight vital issues for the community of free software users," the foundation said in a statement. "This is a moment to thank the thousands who participated by commenting on the license, and those that represented stakeholders throughout the GPLv3 committee process."
The foundation formed 22 years ago to promote the use, study, copying, modification, and redistribution of computer programs. The FSF's mission is to promote the free development, use, and documentation of free software, especially the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants. It also addresses ethical and political issues related to software development, use, and distribution.
Key changes from GPLv2 include a ban on deals under which open-source distributors agree to patent-protection arrangements with commercial software developers. GPLv3 also adds a prohibition on including open-source software in consumer appliances that don't allow user modifications.
The Free Software Foundation said such arrangements and features violate the spirit of open-source software, which is meant to be used and shared freely. The two provisions are squarely aimed at Microsoft and digital video recorder manufacturer Tivo.
Some members of the open-source community have already promised to reject version 3. They include Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, who told InformationWeek in March, "I will not sign on to GPLv3 if it limits how the code is used."
Some have said that if popular GPL projects diverge over time into incompatible products -- those developed under GPLv3 and those under GPLv2 -- it will multiply the licensing and compatibility complications for open-source software.
Open-source software can support commercial products, while free software isn't subject to licenses or other restrictions. Private businesses and commercial enterprises rely on open-source software, and it's seen as a growing trend in many areas, including Wall Street.
--with contributions from Charles Babcock