Apr 6

Allison Randal

Allison Randal

GPLv3, Committee A Meeting

Committee A met in a conference call today for the first time since the release of the third draft of the GPLv3. In the interests of privacy and confidentiality, I won't report specific details of the call. I will talk a bit about how my perceptions changed as a result of the conversation. These are the two core ideas I carried away, and I'll leave it to others on the call or representing the FSF or SFLC to correct any misperceptions.

First, the FSF (or at least the SFLC) recognizes that the "Microsoft/Novell clause" (paragraph 5, section 11) in the third draft may block not only deals that they consider dangerous, but also deals that they consider perfectly legitimate. The bracketed phrase at the end of the paragraph, granting amnesty for past deals, is motivated by exactly this problem: they don't want to negatively impact companies who are friendly to free software and acting in a way that is entirely not harmful to free software. But amnesty for past deals doesn't solve the problem for future deals. They will try to rephrase it in such a way that it doesn't impact the legitimate deals. The task may prove impossible, which would significantly hinder any software agreements around GPL'd software, in which case they'll remove the paragraph and address their goals in a different way. That's a reasonable position and I respect it. Personally, I think removing it is the best solution. The 4th paragraph of the same section "...the patent license you grant is automatically extended to all recipients of the covered work and works based on it." is adequate to meet the needs of free software, and fits very nicely with the philosophy of the GPL in general.

Second, on Apache License compatibility, the statement in the rationale document that it is not compatible is based on a particular interpretation of the "offer of warranty" terms in the Apache License. The FSF/SFLC's interpretation has been that a company who offers legal protection for Apache licensed software would have to grant the developers complete protection for all legal liability of any kind. The way I and many others read it is that when a company agrees to offer legal protection for Apache licensed software, they can't pass the burden they accepted back to the developers. I'm really not sure how the FSF/SFLC reached their interpretation of the terms. When you extract the redundancies and amplifications (common to all legal language), the sentence in question reads: "You agree to indemnify each Contributor for any liability incurred by reason of your accepting any such additional liability." Anyway, it sounds like we may be able to look forward to a quick and happy resolution to the Apache License compatibility question.

tags: open source  | comments: 0   | Sphere It

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