The Real Meaning of GNU GPLv3
Now that the final version of the GNU General Public Licence version 3 has been released, the in-depth analysis of its implications can begin. Two of the first commentaries to be published have come from the legal world, and there are doubtless many more being prepared for purely internal use within software companies wondering whether to adopt the new licence. But important as both the legal and commercial details are, I believe the true significance of the GPLv3 lies elsewhere.
For example, in all the high-profile excitement about whether the Linux kernel will or won't adopt GPLv3, its effect on consumer devices like those from TiVo, or whether the new licence does or doesn't block the Microsoft-Novell deal, one amazing fact has been overlooked: that the extremely slow, meticulous and obsessive revision of a legal document designed to regulate the use of a certain class of software has generated thousands of articles, many in the mainstream press. This is rather incredible: who, a few years ago, would have thought that something as archetypally dull as a software licence could elicit such passion and and such interest?
In part that interest has been stoked by the manner in which the licence revision has been carried out. Whereas the first version of the GNU GPL was essentially the product of one man – Richard Stallman – and even the second involved only him and a few close collaborators, the drafting of version 3 has been opened out in an exemplary fashion to allow as wide a participation as possible. Given Stallman's close control of his GNU project and all that pertains to it, this new style of transparent, collaborative and inclusive working is a significant development for the future.
It is important not least because it is indicative of a wholly new spirit within the GNU movement. Take, for example, the following section from the one of the FAQs accompanying the licence:
Some companies effectively outsource their entire IT department to another company. Computers and applications are installed in the company's offices, but managed remotely by some service provider. In some of these situations, the hardware is locked down; only the service provider has the key, and the customers consider that to be a desirable security feature.
We think it's unfortunate that people would be willing to give up their freedom like this. But they should be able to fend for themselves, and the market provides plenty of alternatives to these services that would not lock them down. As a result, we have introduced this compromise to the draft: distributors are only required to provide Installation Information when they're distributing the software on a User Product, where the customers' buying power is likely to be less organized.
Compromise? Richard Stallman has accepted a compromise? Obviously aware of the shocking nature of this confession, the FAQ hastens to add -
This is a compromise of strategy, and not our ideals
- but even a compromise of strategy is an extraordinary shift for the hitherto unbending Stallman. It may not represent any fundamental shift away from free software purism to open source pragmatism, but it is certainly indicative of a more nuanced and sensitive approach. This can also be seen from the fact that considerable efforts have been made to improve compatibility with the Apache licence, and that the threatened tough stance against companies using free software as the basis of Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings was ditched in favour of a completely separate licence, the GNU AGPLv3, still being drafted.
The other notable aspect of the GPLv3 is that discussions about its possible adoption by software houses are framed against a background where the GPL is now widely accepted as the best licence for businesses based around free software. That is, not so much the best licence for a company's coders, but the best licence for its capitalists. The announcement by Sun that it would adopting the GPL for Java is perhaps the clearest demonstration of this, but an increasing number of open source companies are moving from other licences to “pure
Fast/Flexible Linux OS Recovery
On Demand Now
In this live one-hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for complete disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible full-system recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.
Join Linux Journal's Shawn Powers and David Huffman, President/CEO, Storix, Inc.
Free to Linux Journal readers.Register Now!
- Download "Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI"
- Petros Koutoupis' RapidDisk
- ServersCheck's Thermal Imaging Camera Sensor
- The Italian Army Switches to LibreOffice
- Linux Mint 18
- Oracle vs. Google: Round 2
- The FBI and the Mozilla Foundation Lock Horns over Known Security Hole
- Firefox 46.0 Released
- Varnish Software's Varnish Massive Storage Engine
Until recently, IBM’s Power Platform was looked upon as being the system that hosted IBM’s flavor of UNIX and proprietary operating system called IBM i. These servers often are found in medium-size businesses running ERP, CRM and financials for on-premise customers. By enabling the Power platform to run the Linux OS, IBM now has positioned Power to be the platform of choice for those already running Linux that are facing scalability issues, especially customers looking at analytics, big data or cloud computing.
￼Running Linux on IBM’s Power hardware offers some obvious benefits, including improved processing speed and memory bandwidth, inherent security, and simpler deployment and management. But if you look beyond the impressive architecture, you’ll also find an open ecosystem that has given rise to a strong, innovative community, as well as an inventory of system and network management applications that really help leverage the benefits offered by running Linux on Power.Get the Guide