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A lack of clarity on the part of Red Hat open source licensing and patent counsel Richard Fontana as to whether he has, or has not, created a fork of the GPLv3 free software licence has led to well-known free software advocate Bradley Kuhn dissociating himself from the project.

Fontana wrote that the project was aiming to produce a free, strong copyleft licence. But he described it to iTWire as "a toy project" he had begun to learn more about git, the version control system written by Linus Torvalds in 2005.

The GPLv3 is an updated version of the well-known GPLv2 free software licence. It was released on July 1, 2007.

A few days ago, the president of the Open Source Initiative, Simon Phipps, who writes a column for Infoworld, wrote that Fontana had created a fork of the GPLv3, called GPL.next. Phipps mentioned that the fork was created by Fontana as an individual.

Phipps also sought to drive home the point that the project was being posted on GitHub because it has advantages over other similar hosts.

GitHub uses a rewritten, proprietary version of git.

Phipps' blog post was linked to from Linux Weekly News. Fontana himself posted the first comment to that linked post.

."Note that the removal of the Preamble (and at least a rewrite of the How to Apply) are necessary to meet the FSF's conditions for creating derivative works of the GNU GPL text (as stated in the FSF's GNU licenses FAQ)," he wrote.

"However, I believe these two sections are worth removing from the license (sic) document anyway. (They of course have value as distinct documents.)"

In a separate post on LWN, Fontana added: "The eventual goal of the project is to produce a free, strong copyleft license, suitable for software and, perhaps, non-software works."

When the question of hosting the project on a free site was raised by the Fedora project's Rahul Sundaram, who also suggested that it be moved to Gitorious, Fontana said he planned to follow this suggestion and make a primary public instance of the project at Gitorious with a mirror at GitHub.

Fontana had cited Kuhn as a committer. When Kuhn was asked about the project, he said that it had been started by Fontana and advised me to ask him about it.

"Richard has been speaking for years about ideas he has for improvements to copyleft. My understanding is he wants to experiment with drafting ideas for copyleft, but this project is not affiliated with the GNU GPL," Kuhn told iTWire.

"Richard has recently renamed the project "Copyleft.next" to clarify that point."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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