Feeds

New GPL licence touted as saviour of Linux, Android

Tough on lawyers, and on the causes of lawyers

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

The Free Software Foundation reckons its new version of the General Public Licence removes the problems bedevilling version two, but not everyone is convinced the problem even exists.

The FSF reckons that Linux developers need to move quickly to GPLv3 if they're to avoid Android (and similar Linux-based platforms) getting tied up in legal battles, despite the fact that many are claiming such battles are no more than figments in the eyes of publicity-hungry bloggers.

At issue is the clause in version two of the GPL which states that anyone breaching the restrictions irrevocably surrenders their rights under the licence. As just about every Android licensee has, at some point, failed to provide source code (or written notice of source code provision), then (the argument goes) they are all in breach of the GPLv2 and thus open to copyright suits from every Linux developer.

This was highlighted by IP attorney Edward Naughton, expounded by Florian Mueller, and reported by us. All this attention has prompted the FSF to explain that its latest licence fixes the problem completely.

Version three of the GPL allows the rights to be reinstated when compliance is re-established: so a company failing to distribute source code could remove the threat of suit by releasing the code, so the FSF has released a statement asking Linux developers to get into GPLv3 before it is too late:

"We urge developers who are releasing projects under GPLv2 to upgrade to GPLv3," says the statement, naming Android as the platform at risk. "Companies that sell products that use Android can help out by encouraging the developers of Linux to make the switch to GPLv3."

But despite the wording of the GPLv2, which rescinds licences for violations, it is far from clear whether it does, and (equally importantly) whether any of developers involved in Linux have the money (which would be needed to make the case) or inclination to start suing people for illegally using their code.

Linux developers are generally a benign bunch, unlikely to start raising capital to fund what would be a lengthy legal case, but the FSF argues that it is the fear of being sued that prevents companies using GPL code: a fear which may have little basis in fact.

"This is just one of many reasons why GPLv3 is better than GPLv2. This change has already given some companies the reassuring nudge they needed to start distributing GPL-covered software, and we expect to see more of that in the future."

IT World reckons the FSF shouldn't be using fear of a non-existent threat to promote its new licence, but anything that puts companies off the free alternatives is a problem. The threat might never be realised, but with the GPLv3 it definitely won't be. ®

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

More from The Register

next story
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.