This is it. After a year and a half of debate and derision, the final last-call draft of the cornerstone open source GNU General Public
License (GPL) version 3 is out for discussion.
The biggest change in the fourth and likely final draft of the GPL version 3
is that the new license will be compatible with the Apache 2.0 open
source license, which is widely deployed and extremely popular. Though GPL
version 3 will be compatible with Apache, the new GPL will not be compatible
with GPL version 2.
“First of all, it is important to note that upgrading is a choice,” Richard
Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, wrote in an essay published
today about the GPL version 3. “GPL version 2 will remain a valid license,
and no disaster will happen if some programs remain under GPLv2 while others
advance to GPLv3. These two licenses are incompatible, but that isn’t a
Stallman argued that it’s not a problem since license compatibility between
the two versions of GPL would only be an issue when developers link, merge
or combine code from two different programs into a single program. The
answer to deal with GPL version compatibility is to have developers migrate
from version 2 to version 3, which is what Stallman advocates.
GPL version 3 includes new provisions to the 15-year-old GPL version 2
license that provides protection for patents and Digital Rights Management
(DRM) among other enhancements.
The patent protection clauses in the last-call draft have been modified
somewhat over the clauses included in the third draft. Those clauses were
specifically targeted at preventing another patent-protection deal, such as the one in November between Microsoft and Novell.
New terms in the last-call draft will
block vendors who make “discriminatory patent deals” at any point after
March 28, which was when the third draft of GPL 3 was released.
According to statement issued by the FSF,
Novell is not prohibited from distributing GPL version 3 software, because
the patent protection it arranged with Microsoft last November can be
turned against Microsoft to the community’s benefit.
Discussion about revising the GPL in version 3 first officially began in January 2006. With the release of the last-call draft there
are now 29 days for the community to comment.
The FSF expects it will officially publish the final license on June 29.