Enterprise Linux Log

Mar 30 2007   2:00PM GMT

GPLv3: Too ambiguous for its own good?


I’m doing some follow up on the discussion draft of GPLv3 today, and it’s not going well for the folks at the Free Software Foundation. The positive press that surrounded the draft on day one has melted away to reveal what resembles widespread criticism of not only the draft, but of the FSF itself. As people read over section 11, and noted the bracketed “needs work” text, they started asking: Is Novell’s partnership grandfathered in to the GPLv3?

In an interview with Boston-based IP attorney Jeff Seul today, he and I discussed the GPL and its “ambiguity problem.” It was Seul’s opinion that the draft has become such an ambiguous mess he could no longer provide legal advice for clients coming to his office with the intent of starting a new business of project based on GPLv3’d software. In Seul’s words, “the FSF model is collapsing in on itself.”

While that interview percolates in the editing chamber, you can chew on this email I received from one of my user contacts regarding the GPL. In it, founder of the Washington, D.C., Linux Users Group and a researcher at the University of Maryland Przemek Klosowski tells a tale of two generals, and delves into the DRM aspects of the draft.

I am bemused. As the old military saying goes, the one thing worse than a bad general is two good generals. I see problems with GPL2 but the problem of dealing with differences and choices between GPL v.2 and v.3 just seem like a headache. The big difference is in DRM approach, and I would prefer that people had an option: either not care and use GPL2 or add an anti-DRM clause. Stallman wanted the anti-DRM to be the default so that why it is not an extra clause but the whole new version.

In the end it is just a lot of lawyerspeak barking, while the FOSS caravan goes on.

FOSS carries on, for sure, but will the FSF?

3  Comments on this Post

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  • University Update
    GPLv3: Too ambiguous for its own good?
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  • Elias
    According to the bio on his law firm's website, Jeff Seul has close ties to Microsoft: until recently, he was the general counsel of Groove Networks, where he worked for Ray Ozzie, Bill Gates's replacement at Microsoft, and, his website bio states, Seul "was instrumental in ... negotiating and consummating the company's sale to Microsoft in 2005." How likely is it that Mr. Seul is not doing a favor for his former boss, Mr. Ozzie?
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  • Chris Mister
    The GPLv3 is a nightmare - it won't allow Microsoft to offer selective patent promises, or allow developers to lock-up consumer devices like Tivo did. I don't know about you, but I think those guys at the FSF must really have it in for proprietary software or something. And thanks to enterpriselinux for finding quality source material like this - bravo! ps - love that Microsoft banner advert on this page.
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