Friday, June 29, 2007

GPL3: Time Will Tell

GPL3 and LGPL3 was released today.

The effort made around GPL3 has been unprecedented and extraordinary. In this distributed license creation, education and commentary effort, the FSF brought together so many technology companies, lawyers, developers, government representatives and others to contribute their time and expertise. These participants and the FSF had very different visions of GPL3 and how free and open source software (FOSS) should work and coexist. Bringing them all together to sort through the issues makes GPL3 a historic and remarkable achievement.

From the beginning, Black Duck has been involved in the process as a participant on Committee C, having both the company’s General Counsel, Kat McCabe, and a key advisor, Karen Copenhaver, attended meetings. Committee C was populated with attorneys and other representatives of large users from the U.S. and all over the world. The analysis of drafts provided by the Committee was rapid and rigorous. I found it energizing to read email reactions to the drafts and issues.

Eben Moglen did a supreme job driving the overall process, license, and the intellectual underpinnings of the new version as well as commentary of proposed changes. At some points over the last 18 months he looked totally worn out, carrying the weight of the process, his clients and community on his shoulders. He deserves a lot of credit for the realization of this achievement.

Through the long and very detail oriented process, attorneys for the FSF and the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) – especially Richard Fontana – did a tremendous job. They were clear, reasoned and helpful. And their openness, patience and diligence were remarkable. Taking in comments from all sides and trying to address as many concerns as possible was certainly challenging. The FSF showed a lot of willingness to respond to concerns and moved considerably on a number of issues, including patent retaliation and DRM. Whether that effort produced a license that companies will use or adopt – that will take some time to determine. Whether that effort produced a license that companies will use or adopt – that will take some time to determine.

Did the FSF fulfill their mission?

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