Friday, June 08, 2007

GPLv2 Vs GPLv3 - for the technophobe

A friend of mine asked me,
"What's the GPLv3 issue?"
That, to put it mildly, is a long story :-)

The purpose of the GPL is to 'free the code'. That is any code under the GPL and modification made to the code will always be available to end-users to study, modify, re-distribute, and use with modifications, referred to as the 'fundamental freedoms' .

However there is a loophole in the GPLv2 which allows some HW companies to follow the letter of the GPL - give the code to their users, while breaking the spirit of the GPL - not allowing the users to modify the code and use it.

Also, the GPLv2 did not have much about software patents and protection of patents, which was also a loophole which allowed companies to obey the letter while breaking the spirit.

The GPLv3 tries very hard to fix these loopholes. It intends to refresh the spirit of the GPL, and ensure people can't abuse these loopholes in the GPLv2.

1) First read Tivoization for what the loophole in the GPLv2 is, and how Tivo used it to break the spirit of the GPL. There are more references on that page which are well worth a read.
3) I couldn't get such a clear reference to the patent issues - but this article explains a bit.
4) The GPL is actually quite simple and clear to read! Read about the gplv3!
Read the gplv2 license.
5) What defines the four fundamental freedoms?

Disclaimer: THIS IS NOT MEANT TO BE COMPLETE OR ACCURATE. Just an introduction to what the GPL is and the source of difference between v2 and v3. If you are really interested post here, after reading the references, and I'll respond as I can. Reading the references should take between 4-6 hours minimum :-). And if you want real legal advice - talk to a lawyer.

Richard M. Stallman. No discussion on Free Software would be complete without reference to him. Some might even say Him. He's the man who leads the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and has made Free Software his life's work. The code he's written is used daily by millions of people. He's also a very controversial person - typically because he's very blunt, stubborn, and precise in the way he speaks and uses words.

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