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Bangalore/BMSCE/Understanding GPL version 3

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A discussion on GPL version 3 and its implications in the Free and Open Source community.

Date: 20th May 2007

Time: 10 am

Venue: BMS College of Engineering (directions to reach BMSCE)

Note: This page is a scratch pad and every participant is encouraged to share his 
notes/findings... here. You could expand any subtopic or add new subtopics/related
discussions here. Also you could use the talk page for discussing how the discussion 
should go. --Pravs 12:01, 16 May 2007 (UTC)
Another oft-heard objection to GPL3 is "GPL 2 is good enough!". But GPL has never stood alone, it has always depended on the local interpretation of copyright and other law to give it force, and those things change over time.

When the GPL was written, there was no web, music came from phonograph records, video from tape, and rather than DRM there was rudimentary software "copy protection". The renaissance of microprocessors, software, the web and digital media worked a tremendous change in the law with many changes to copyright, patents, the nature of consent, contracts, tear-open licenses, and copyright permissions. And there have been many trials over those years that added interpretation to laws that GPL 2 depends upon. As the law changes, GPL must change to keep up with it, or it will become increasingly un-enforcible. Bruce Perens



  • new terms propagate and convey
To "propagate" a work means to do (or cause others to do) anything with it that requires permission under applicable copyright law, except executing it on a computer or making modifications that you do not share. Propagation includes copying, distribution (with or without modification), making available to the public, and in some countries other activities as well. To "convey" a work means any kind of propagation that enables other parties to make or receive copies, excluding sublicensing. Mere interaction with a user through a computer network, with no transfer of a copy, is not conveying. GPLv3 Draft 3

Increased license compatibility

Incompatibility with GPLv2

  • Concern of mixing GPLv2 and GPLv3 code in distributions
A Linux distribution is an aggregation of independent works under their own licenses *and* a collective work deserving of its own overall copyright and license. If that collective work is distributed under GPLv3, then derivative works *of that aggregation* must be licensed under GPLv3 also.

Meanwhile, the individual works in that aggregation remain under the original licenses their authors placed them under. Lawrence Rosen

The Linux kernel is clearly a single work with multiple authors. The current kernel is clearly a derivative of at least some work done on previous kernels. It is not in any way, shape or form a collective work.

A GNU/Linux distro is clearly a collective work. Rob Myers

Tivoisation/DRM/Embedded Systems

Confused objectors to GPL3 state that it won't allow the Linux kernel to be used on a system that implements DRM, and that GPL3 will compel manufacturers to "give away their keys". If Linus Torvalds and the kernel developers still believe this, they're wrong. Bruce Perens

Patents (Novell-Microsoft deal)

This process of attempting to segregate the enterprise customers – whose insistence on their rights will stop the threatening – from the developers who are at the end the real object of the threat, is what is wrong with the deals. Eben Moglen
In the Novell-Microsoft agreement, a loophole was constructed by Microsoft and Novell's attorneys, one so new to us that the first two public drafts of GPL3 contained no provision to repair it. This experience shows that GPL must continue to grow just to stand still. To freeze on one version would act to erode its protections over time. Bruce Perens
...the fact that Microsoft was selling coupons that customers could trade in for Novell Linux subscriptions meant that Microsoft was now a Linux distributor. And that, as Moglen saw it, meant that Microsoft was itself subject to the terms of the GPL. So he'd write a clause saying, in effect, that if Microsoft continued to issue Novell Linux coupons after the revised GPL took effect, it would be waiving its right to bring patent suits not just against Novell customers, but against all Linux users.

Eben Moglen


  1. Read the third discussion draft of the GNU General Public License version 3.
  2. Read the discussion on GPLv3, Linux and GPLv2 compatibility on Alison Randall's blog
  3. Bruce Perens clearing up FUD on GPLv3


  1. Praveen A
  2. Thejesh GN
  3. Vikram Vincent
  4. Sandip Bhattacharya
  5. Anivar Aravind
  6. Harshal Patil
  7. Saurabh Minni
  8. Harish.TT
  9. Ashok kumar
  10. Justin Joseph
  11. Raveesh Mayya K
  12. CK Raju
  13. Sujith Haridasan
  14. Jayesh @ Bangalore (Is it in Auditorium? What time?)
  15. Madhusudan.C.S
  16. Krishna Bharadwaj
  17. Shashank Bharadwaj
  18. Santosh G Vattam


First up, of the 18 members registered here, only 9 turned up!!

Well these were some of the things that were discussed, if I have missed something please feel free to add it.

  • The discussion started with Praveen telling us the need for another revision of GPL.
  • Then we disscussed how the GPLv3 will enable us (The Free Software Community) to stop deals like the Novell-Microsoft ones.
  • We all watched a video of Eben Moglen speaking on the Microsoft-Novell deal.
  • The importance of GPLv3 in Embedded Systems and stoping DRM was also disscussed.
  • Praveen suggested that all of us should read Freeing the Mind: Free Software and the Death of Proprietary Culture by Eben Moglen
  • Then we briefly talked about the Campaign to promote free software in Karnataka, going to our schools and persuading them to switch to Free Software.
  • Finnally we decided that the BMSLUG has done enough of talking and that we'll do some projects on GNU in our holidays in mid-July.