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OSDL accepts GPL proliferation

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LinuxWorld Delegates to this week's open source love-in left San Francisco pondering a a split over the next proposed version of GPL, which governs Linux.

Stuart Cohen, chief executive of the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), has conceded developers will end up using two versions of GPL - the proposed version 3 license and existing GPL 2 - "for a very long time to come". OSDL is home to Linux creator Linus Torvalds who has publicly branded GPL 3 a "total disaster" and vowed to keep the Linux kernel on GPL 2.

Cohen, speaking during a panel discussion at LinuxWorld in San Francisco, California, denied dual licenses could hurt the pace of Linux and open source work as developers wait to see which license prevails. "The market hasn't stalled... no body is holding [back] releases. A vast majority of developers are on GPL 2 projects", he said.

Proliferation is certainly a concern to Hewlett Packard, already rattled at some of GPL 3's proposed patent provisions. Joining Cohen at LinuxWorld, Christine Martino, the vice president of HP's open source and Linux organization, said a single license would be "great".

GPL governs hundreds of thousands of open source projects, not just Linux, and Martino thinks that vendors may face governance problems, if it came to monitoring which code is used.

Eben Moglen, general counsel for the Free Software Foundation (FSF), pushing GPL 3, downplayed the prospect of license proliferation. He told LinuxWorld a compromise could still be reached during the next round of GPL 3 negotiations.

"I believe his [Torvalds] objections like other peoples' objections can be discussed and discerned, and common ground can be found or at least near common solutions can be found," Moglen said. "In a negotiation when everyone's bottom line is clear the work of serous compromise beings. I believe we will have a successful outcome."

Disagreement is not threatening to derail the FSF's timetable. Moglen committed FSF to finishing GPL 3 by March next year, expressing his view the work could be finished as soon as January. FSF has been working on GPL 3 for two years.

Torvalds has stood out against GPL 3 since publication of the first public GPL 3 draft. His concerns center on digital rights management (DRM) and encryptio. GPL 3 is motivated more by FSF's political agenda against closed source than technical considerations, he argues Version 3 is the first update to GPL in 14 years. The proposed license appears to compel developers to publish their encryption keys, which would prohibit use of open source code under GPL 3 in hardware- and software-based DRM systems.

A second public draft in July did not address Torvalds' issues and, in fact, led him to brand the license a disaster. He posted on Groklaw that the Linux kernel is "staying with GPL v2." He called the failure to address problems in GPL 3 "shortsighted." ®

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