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Thursday, 31 May 2007 22:40

GPLv3: the sting remains, says RMS

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The Free Software Foundation will publish the last call draft of the third revision of its General Public License (GPLv3) today and has retained sufficient bite in it to penalise Microsoft.

FSF founder Richard M. Stallman said yesterday that he had decided to include a cut-off date in paragraph 7 of section 11 of the draft to make it possible for Novell to continue to distribute software covered under GPLv3 as part of its deal with Microsoft.

In the last draft, released on March 28, section 11 specifically dealt with problems posed by the Novell-Microsoft deal.

In an explanatory note issued a day before its release, the FSF said the draft "...deals with the most acute danger posed by discrimination among customers, by ensuring that any party who distributes others’ GPL-covered programs, and makes promises of patent safety limited to some but not all recipients of copies of those speciiific programs, automatically extends its promises of patent safety to cover all recipients of all copies of the covered works."

And to prevent such things happening in the future, the draft said that any entity, which was already part of a deal which provided patent cover in the manner that the Novell deal does, cannot distribute software that is under the GPLv3. There was a cutoff date of March 28 but it was only provisional in the  draft; Stallman says this will now be made part of the last call draft.

"I decided to include the date cut-off that makes paragraph 7 (of section 11) forbid only deals made after last March - which means it will not forbid Novell from distributing GPLv3-covered software under the effects of its deal with Microsoft," he said.

"When Novell does that, paragraph 6, which has no date cut-off, will apply. We expect this to make the deal backfire against Microsoft, by extending the deal's limited patent protection for Novell customers to the whole user community. That is a better outcome than forbidding Novell from distributing the software, and that is why I made this decision."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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