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Committee B Minutes / Conf Call 4 / 16 Mar 2006

by kajarno last modified 2006-03-29 08:29

Minutes from the fourth Committee B conf call, 16 March 2006

GPLv3 Committee B: Meeting Notes 16 Mar 2006

1. Roll call: A good 2/3 of the members were on board.

2. Approving the minutes from the meeting 28 Feb 2006

Meeting notes were approved. Notes were made publicly available on

3. Are, in the view of the FSF, GPLv2 and GPLv3 compatible?

And how is the de-facto "dual license" mechanism ("licensed under v2 or any later version") intended to work?

Dietmar Tallroth's email questions to Eben was taken as a prerequisite to the later discussion on the commercial viability of GPLv3.

Eben: No. In general, GPLv2 and GPLv3 are not compatible either way.
So from a pure copyleft standpoint, GPLv2 and GPLv3 are not compatible.

True enough, according to the new section 7 in GPLv3, you can see GPLv2 code as "GPLv3 code with additional permissions". Developers of GPLv3 software can therefore give the permission to allow GPLv2 code to be compined.

However, this requires an active deed (allowing this permission) from the license holder. And it can be withdrawn by subsequent modifyers. Thus, over time, the compatibility will decrease.

Users can automatically update GPLv2 software to be GPLv3 software.

One GPLv3 requirement which is not fulfilled by GPLv2 is the last paragraph of section 7: All additional restrictions have to be maintained in a central place. This place does not exist in GPLv2 software.

4. Overview of GPLv3 status from Committee B member perspective

We combined the five overall questions

  • Will the Committee B members move to GPLv3 by themselves, or stayGPLv2?
  • Will the users move by their own accord to use "GPLv2 or higher"released software under GPLv3, if it is perceived as being more strict?
  • Will the "tick box" nature (options being allowed) of GPLv3 make the whole GPL concept more easily FUDable by the foes of Free Software?
  • Will the current GPLv3 make it more, or less, likely for individual Committee B members to release their software under GPL (rather than closed source, or other Open Source licenses)?
  • What do the committee members think about the effects of Linus Torvalds's lukewarm GPLv3 statements?

into one question: What is the commercial viability of GPLv3?

For the GPLv3 to be commercially viable, the industry expects three things: Certainty, Clarity and Stability.

We are not there yet. If we cannot get there, the GPLv2 should and will prevail. There is a risk that only non-commercial projects move to GPLv3, making those projects marginalised.

When assessing the commercial viability of GPLv3, we hade to ask about the FUDability of the licence. Right now, the GPLv3 has potential for FUD in some areas:

  • it is complex
  • it contains optional clauses
  • it has some of the concerns already raised in GroupBIssues (such as the Patent Retailation Extension)

An easily FUDable GPLv3 will be a hurdle for vendors to overcome. If companies like Pfizer and JP Morgan believe the FUD, they will go into the "I will just use Microsoft" thinking. The theory does not matter.

The decision about whether to move to GPLv3 will be made by the community, including the commercial community.

Many others aired similar thinking.

Other points made were:

GPLv2 was designed without any concern for commercial viability. It was designed to protect freedom. Nobody in the early 1990's would have considered GPLv2 a particularly commercially viable license model.

There is less room to get the GPLv3 wrong, since GPLv2 now has a large commercial following.

If things go wrong with GPLv3, the likely outcome of it will be that freedom is dented. It is less likely that the dire consequences would reside in the commercial section.

The DRM provision might make it difficult to use GPLv3 for code in appliances that require type approval or otherwise are required to be tamper-resistant by regulatory requirement. If GPLv3 is meant to be a good collaboration platform (as was GPL v2), it should not exclude parties bound by regulatory requirements from participation.

Eben: That might be, and I would like improvement suggestions. However, what is the exact adverse change from GPLv2?

5. Further actions on GroupBIssues

We discussed the items to pick for the next meetings. The general feeling was that the overall "commercial viability" question falls back on some of the concerns already raised.

We saw as our task to identify the barriers for commercial viability.

A ranked list presented by last meeting was:

  1. Patents in Section 11
  2. DRM: Section 1 and 3
  3. Complete corresponding Source in Section 1

Eben: From a Business Practice perspective, it's OK for Committee B to concentrate on the question "what's good for businesses that use GPL software".

  • Is GPLv3 a good place to put investments in software?
  • Can companies control the destiny of investments in GPLv3?
  • Does GPLv3 help people cooperate better?

Eben: Wait with dealing with DRM. There will soon be an FSF paper describing the DRM issues better, probably making the Committee B discussion easier.


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