FSF releases the GNU General Public License, version 3
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today released version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), the world's most popular free software license.
“Since we founded the free software movement, over 23 years ago, the free software community has developed thousands of useful programs that respect the user's freedom. The programs are in the GNU/Linux operating system, as well as personal computers, telephones, Internet servers, and more. Most of these programs use the GNU GPL to guarantee every user the freedom to run, study, adapt, improve, and redistribute the program,” said Richard Stallman, founder and president of the FSF.
Version 3 of the GNU GPL strengthens this guarantee, by ensuring that users can modify the free software on their personal and household devices, and granting patent licenses to every user. It also extends compatibility with other free software licenses and increases international uniformity.
Jeremy Allison, speaking on behalf of the Samba team, states that they see the new license as “a great improvement on the older GPL,” and that it is “a necessary update to deal with the new threats to free software that have emerged since version 2 of the GPL.”
The warm embrace of much of the community should come as no surprise, for the license is the final result of an unprecedented drafting process that has seen four published drafts in eighteen months. These were the basis for a discussion that included thousands of comments from the public. This feedback, along with input from committees representing the public and private sectors, and legal advice from the Software Freedom Law Center, was used in writing the text of GPL version 3.
“By hearing from so many different groups in a public drafting process, we have been able to write a license that successfully addresses a broad spectrum of concerns. But even more importantly, these different groups have had an opportunity to find common ground on important issues facing the free software community today, such as patents, tivoization, and Treacherous Computing,” said the Foundation's executive director, Peter Brown.
Tivoization and Treacherous (aka, “Trusted”) Computing are schemes to prevent users from utilizing modified or alternate software. The former simply blocks modified software from running; the latter enables web sites to refuse to talk to modified software. Both are typically used to impose malicious features such as Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). GPL version 3 does not restrict the features of a program; in particular, it does not prohibit DRM. However, it prohibits the use of tivoization and Treacherous Computing to stop users from changing the software. Thus, they are free to remove whatever features they may dislike.
Karl Berry, long-time GNU developer and Texinfo maintainer, believes that “the GPL is the fundamental license that ties the free software community together, and version 3 does an excellent job of updating the license to the present-day computing reality.” Elated by the new patent clause, he bemoans software patents as “a scourge on our cooperative efforts.”
Over fifteen GNU programs will be released under the new license today, and the entire GNU Project will follow suit in the coming months. The FSF will also encourage adoption of the license through education and outreach programs. “A lot of time and effort went into this license. Now free programs must adopt it so as to offer their users its stronger protection for their freedom,” Stallman said.
The final license is published at http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html