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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

GPL 3 Released for Public Comment

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) released the first public draft of the new version of the General Public License, marking the first major alterations in 15 years to the licensing guidelines used by the open-source community.

The GPL was originally intended for free software developed by the FSF, but the I.T. industry has experienced a sea change since then. Currently, there are some 50,000 developers using the GPL as a way of getting their software out to users.

According to the FSF, the GNU GPL is the most widely used free-software license worldwide, with almost three-quarters of all free software programs, including
Linux, distributed under it.

Use of software released under the GPL allows distributors to charge for distributing the software -- for example, for the cost of putting it on a CD-ROM -- but it prohibits charging for actual software usage.

Patent Protection

The new GPL 3 draft provides an explicit patent license that covers any patents held by the program's developers, replacing the implicit license on which GPL 2 relies.

Other provisions require some distributors to protect software users against patent-infringement claims, and prevent GPL-licensed applications from being used in digital-rights management (DRM) software.

"As a campaign to limit users' rights, the adoption of DRM is fundamentally at odds with the spirit of the free software movement," the document states. "Our aim is, and must be, the abolition of DRM as a social practice."

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