GPL, Version 3: The Perils Of Ideological Extremism

Francis M. Buono
McLean Sieverding

On June 29, 2007, following more than a year and a half of contentious debate and controversy surrounding numerous proposed revisions to the General Public License (“GPL”), the Free Software Foundation (“FSF”) released the final text of the third version of the GPL (“GPLv3”). For those developers that choose to adopt it, GPLv3 will replace the second version of the GPL (“GPLv2”), which, since 1991, has governed a substantial majority of all large-scale open source software (“OSS”) projects, including most notably the Linux kernel, the GCC compiler, the Samba file server software, and the MySQL database, and which has facilitated the evolution of OSS from a hobby of academics and independent developers to a multi-billion dollar a year revenue-generating business platform. This article follows up on an article published in the June 2007 issue of les Nouvelles calling on the members of the committee participating in the GPLv3 revision process to reconsider certain draconian provisions designed specifically to limit the ability of OSS and proprietary software companies to use intellectual property (“IP”) licensing and other collaborative endeavors to bridge their technical differences in order to respond to growing consumer demands for greater interoperability, innovation, and choice in the IT marketplace. Unfortunately, as described below, the ideological extremism motivating the principal authors of GPLv3 leads to a license that not only fails to achieve the FSF’s primary legal and philosophical objective of undoing the 2006 interoperability collaboration between Microsoft and Novell, but actually gives rise to a number of unintended adverse consequences for the very community it was designed to serve and to the IT marketplace more broadly.


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