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In a bid to boost the spread of open source software in France, a group researchers has announced a new software license which they claim is compatible with the Free Software Foundation's GNU general public license (GPL).

The authors, whose work has been funded by three government bodies, say the licence is necessary because of idiosyncrasies in French law. These mean consumer product manufacturers can't absolve themselves of total responsibility for their product, so open source writers often can't release code without exposing themselves to financial risk.

The new license, called CeCILL, includes a stipulation that the software is offered under license only to knowledgeable users, so limiting, but not eliminating, the liability of the distributors.

The Free Software Foundation, Europe, has reacted cautiously, saying it would need time to study the license carefully before it could say whether or not it was truly compatible with the GNU GPL.

FSFE president, Georg Greve, told The Register: "Attempts at writing national licenses always have a strong tendency at nationalization of Free Software, creating incompatible islands that will not be able to cooperate with each other, eliminating one of the most important advantages of Free Software."

He argued that the most sensible course of action for the FSFE would be to continue to work on making sure the GNU GPL reflected the needs of different countries, and invited the French government and European PArliament to work with the FSFE in this endeavour.

A full English draft of the license is available here.

In separate news, the French Ministry of Equipment announced that it is replacing its old Windows NT infrastructure with versions of Madrakelinux Corporate Server. The deal covers about 1,500 of the department's 2,000 servers from which it serves its 60,000 users. ®

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