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LinuxWorld: GPL 3 And The Linux Kernel Devs

BOSTON -- The under-discussion GPL version 3 license is a bit of a hot potato. Some like it and others, such as Linux creator Linus Torvalds, do not.

In a well attended birds-of-a-feather session here at LinuxWorld, Free Software Foundation counsel and co-author of the GPL 3 draft Eben Moglen explained the current status of the license draft discussion.

He also engaged in a verbal sparring match with open source luminary Bruce Perens regarding Torvalds' participation, or lack thereof, about adoption of the GPL 3 for the Linux kernel.

"There is nothing about dealing with Linus [Torvalds] that turns my stomach," Moglen said in response to a question from Perens who was seated in the audience. "He has been fair-minded and serious; this is not a problem with Torvalds and I'm not going to be drawn into that."

Moglen argued that Torvalds does not have to be brought to the negotiation table, but rather the Free Software Foundation needs to bring a table to him.

The purpose of GPL 3 is to further developers' rights and, as such, the GPL 3 authors need to be respectful and mindful of the developers whose rights they are helping to protect.

"I would only say that the kernel is an important project and [Torvalds'] public statements have been reasonable and fair," Moglen said. "Public statements are not the full extent of the discussion, however.

"I think diplomacy is in good shape; the process is in good shape."

Moglen noted than in general he has seen far fewer comments on the GPL 3 draft than he had expected, which isn't a bad thing. There has been much less low-quality participation thanks to the user commenting systems, which require users to highlight the text they are commenting on.

So there are no "I love it" or "I hate it" types of comments. Also there is a lot less duplication as other comments pop up for a given selected section when a user attempts to make a comment.

"It's about one-third or one-quarter of the volume I had expected," Moglen said. "I thought it would be a ceaseless flame war but that's not going to happen."

The bulk of the "heavy lifting," as Moglen put it, is discussion about patents and DRM, both of which are seen by the GPL 3 as restricting user freedoms.

Moglen did indicate that some modification of the DRM language in the GPL 3 draft is possible. The DRM provisions have generated "a great deal of bitterness and anger."

Moglen also struck back at GPL 3's detractors and the current focus of the discussion about what should not be in the license.

"There has been a great deal of effort and conversation saying something we have done should be taken back," Moglen said. "Very little has been said about more things that should be done.

"I would like to see those positive things."

The next discussion draft of the GPL 3 is set for May.