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<nettime> GPL Version 3: Background to Adoption
lotu5 on Fri, 10 Jun 2005 21:26:30 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> GPL Version 3: Background to Adoption



Boston, MA, USA - Thursday, June 9, 2005 - The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today
released the following article by Richard M. Stallman and Eben Moglen discussing the
forthcoming GPL Version 3.

GPL Version 3: Background to Adoption

by Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen

The GNU General Public License (``the GPL'') has remained unmodified, at version level 2,
since 1991. This is extraordinary longevity for any widely-employed legal instrument. The
durability of the GPL is even more surprising when one takes into account the differences
between the free software movement at the time of version 2's release and the situation
prevailing in 2005.

Richard M. Stallman, founder of the free software movement and author of the GNU GPL,
released version 2 in 1991 after taking legal advice and collecting developer opinion
concerning version 1 of the license, which had been in use since 1985. There was no formal
public comment process and no significant interim transition period. The Free Software
Foundation immediately relicensed the components of the GNU Project, which comprised the
largest then-existing collection of copyleft software assets. In Finland, Linus Torvalds
adopted GPL Version 2 for his operating system kernel, called Linux.

That was then, and this is now. The GPL is employed by tens of thousands of software
projects around the world, of which the Free Software Foundation's GNU system is a tiny
fraction. The GNU system, when combined with Linus Torvalds' Linux---which has evolved into
a flexible, highly-portable, industry-leading operating system kernel---along with Samba,
MySQL, and other GPL'd programs, offers superior reliability and adaptability to
Microsoft's operating systems, at nominal cost. GPL'd software runs on or is embedded in
devices ranging from cellphones, PDAs and home networking appliances to mainframes and
supercomputing clusters. Independent software developers around the world, as well as every
large corporate IT buyer and seller, and a surprisingly large proportion of individual
users, interact with the GPL.

During the period since 1991, of course, there has developed a profusion of free software
licenses. But not in the area covered by the GPL. The ``share and share alike'' or
``copyleft'' aspect of the GPL is its most important functional characteristic, and those
who want to use a copyleft license for software overwhelmingly use the GPL rather than
inventing their own.

Updating the GPL is therefore a very different task in 2005 than it was in 1991. The
substantive reasons for revision, and the likely nature of those changes, are subject
matter for another essay. At present we would like to concentrate on the institutional,
procedural aspects of changing the license. Those are complicated by the fact that the GPL
serves four distinct purposes.


Read more http://www.fsf.org/news/gpl3.html



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