Second GPL3 draft clarifies DRM issues

By   |  July 28, 2006

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) yesterday released the second discussion draft of the GNU General Public Licence (GPL) version 3 (GPLv3). This new draft marks the middle of a year-long public review process designed to evaluate proposed changes and to finalise a new version of the GPL.

The GNU GPL is the most widely used free software licence worldwide according to the FSF which said almost three quarters of all free software programs are distributed under this licence.

GPL version 2 — the version currently in wide use — was released more than 15 years ago and the process to update the licence is hoping to accommodate the many changes in software development and use over the past decade and a half.

The initial discussion GPL3 document was released in January this year and to date nearly 1000 suggestions for improvement have been submitted by the free software community.

With the help of discussion committees, the Free Software Foundation and the Software Freedom Law Center says it has considered all the issues raised by public comments and the new draft of GPLv3 contains extensive revisions as a result of the suggestions.

“We have considered each suggestion with care,” said Eben Moglen, founder and chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center, which represents various free software projects and is assisting FSF in revising the new licence. “By listening to people from around the world, we are working toward a licence that acts consistently in many different legal systems and in a variety of situations.”

“The primary purpose of the GNU GPL is to preserve users’ freedom to use, share, and modify free software,” said Richard Stallman, founder of FSF and original author of the GPL. “We depend on public review to make the GPL do this job reliably.”

Revisions
The new draft clarifies that the licence only directly restricts Digital Rights Management(DRM) in the special case in which it is used to prevent people from sharing or modifying GPLv3-covered software. The clarified DRM section preserves the spirit of the original GPL, which forbids adding additional unfree restrictions to free software. GPLv3 does not prohibit the implementation of DRM features, but prevents them from being imposed on users in a way that they cannot remove.

Other significant revisions in the new draft include a reworked licence compatibility section, and provisions that specifically allow GPL-covered programs to be distributed on certain file sharing networks such as BitTorrent.

This release also includes the first draft of the GNU Lesser General Public Licence (LGPL) version 3. The LGPL licence covers many free software system libraries, including some published by the Free Software Foundation.

The text of the new GPL and LGPL drafts can be found on the web at http://gplv3.fsf.org. The site also includes audio commentary from Eben Moglen; a rationale document which describes the changes to the new draft; and further information about the GPLv3 revision process.

As with the first draft, community members are encouraged to submit
comments online at gplv3.fsf.org.

Throughout the remainder of the process, there will continue to be international GPLv3 discussion conferences, including one next month in Bangalore, India. A third discussion draft of GPLv3 is expected to be released later this year, and the final version will be released between January and March of 2007.

“Last November, we published a document which outlined the process for drafting the new GPL,” said Moglen. “As of now, we are still on schedule for a final release in early 2007.”

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