RealTime IT News

Samba Chooses GPLv3

Samba, the key lynchpin technology that enables file, printer and other resource sharing between Windows and Linux, is headed for the new GPL version 3.

Since its inception, Samba has been licensed under the GPL version 2, though not exclusively. GPL version 2, as used by Samba, includes a clause that allows for use with later versions of the GPL, in this case GPL version 3.

The new version of the GPL includes new patent and digital rights management provisions that its designers intended to help preserve software freedom.

"The GPLv3 is the updated version of the GPLv2 license under which Samba is currently distributed," an announcement on the Samba Web site said. "It has been updated to improve compatibility with other licenses and to make it easier to adopt internationally, and is an improved version of the license to better suit the needs of Free Software in the 21st Century."

Existing Samba users won't be impacted right away; current 3.0.x releases will remain under the GPLv2. However, all new versions beginning with Samba 3.2 will be released under GPLv3. Samba developers have pledged to maintain security fixes for the 3.0.x series though all new features will be included in the 3.2.x and higher series of releases.

Samba's move to GPLv3 may well affect many users of GPLv2 programs as well. In an FAQ section relating to Samba's GPLv3 move, Samba developers explained that if a developer is using code that is released under a "GPLv2 or later" license, it is compatible with the GPLv3 licensed Samba code. However if the developer is using GPLv2 only (as is the case with the Linux kernel and MySQL), it is not compatible with the Samba libraries released under the GPLv3 or LGPLv3 as the wording of the "GPLv2 only" license prevents mixing with other licenses. The Samba developers suggest that in such a case, developers will need to modify their license.

Jeremy Allison, a lead Samba developer, has been vocal about patents and in particular about the Novell Microsoft deal, which provides patent covenants to Linux users. Allison, who until early this year was a Novell employee, sided against his employer about the pact. He has since quit Novell and joined Google.

Among the key technologies that the Novell Microsoft deal addresses is Samba, which is a key interoperability technology. Microsoft has alleged in the past that it infringed on its intellectual property.

To further complicate matters, Microsoft last week announced that it would not ship any GPLv3 licensed technology as part of its deal with Novell in order to prevent any potential risk of patent protection infection. Microsoft has acquired some $240 million worth of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) "certificates" that Microsoft may use itself, distribute or resell.

Novell has pledged however that regardless of what Microsoft says, that Novell will provide those who got their SLES certificates from Microsoft with a regular SUSE Linux Enterprise Server subscription.

"Novell will continue to put the needs of our customers first and ensure that they can take advantage of the latest version of SUSE Linux Enterprise to run their business," Novell spokesperson Bruce Lowry wrote in a blog post.