10 Mar 2010

Mozilla Revises MPL

Earlier today, the Mozilla Foundation announced its process for revising MPL 1.1, in a public comment-driven process lasting until the fall.

I like their process announcement, which proposes a reasonable schedule and workflow. The Foundation has clearly studied the GPLv3 process, and has drawn good conclusions about what worked for us, and what will work better for them if done differently. They’re using Co-ment, the wonderful Web-based text annotation system designed and implemented by Philippe Aigrain and his colleagues at Sopinspace in Paris. They helped us design the Stet system we used for GPLv3, and they’ve gone far beyond it with Co-ment.

The MPL has been an influential free software license, but I agree with the unstated proposition of the Mozilla Foundation that it’s now showing its age. I think this is precisely the right time to be doing the revision, and I wish the Mozilla folks a smooth, thoughtful, and successful process. I hope everyone who cares about the health of Web, and about free software licensing, will register and get involved. SFLC and I will be doing whatever we can to help. And I sure look forward to being an insignificant minor player this time around…

permalink | licenses/mpl | 2010.03.10-12:30.00

26 Sep 2006

A Renewed Invitation to Kernel Developers

In view of recent statements by developers of the Linux kernel, and the response by the Free Software Foundation, I would like to offer my personal views as the chief mediator in the GPLv3 process.

To begin with, I welcome the current expressions of opinion by kernel developers. As I have repeatedly said in private communications, and will now say again publicly, I will gladly take any steps possible to include the kernel developers in the ongoing discussion process. I invite them to represent themselves in any way they choose, and pledge to work with them to create, even at this late date, a form of participation in the deliberations about GPLv3 that would reflect their preferred means of work, and be appropriate to their position in the community of developers.

I appreciate the positions taken publicly by the kernel developers. To be clear, the process of deliberation in which FSF and everyone else has been engaged since January is not only a process of taking positions. It also involves listening to the positions others have taken: it’s the effect of listening as well as talking that gives deliberative democracy its effectiveness as well as its legitimacy.

I have been doing a job this year, on behalf of the Free Software Foundation as a client of the Software Freedom Law Center. In this time, I have watched hundreds of serious-minded and busy people take time to listen to one another’s needs, to explain their principles, to deliberate on the arrangements that affect their lives. For my colleagues and fellow citizens who develop the Linux kernel, I have nothing but respect. I ask them please to join the conversation that is going on, to listen to others whose views may not be theirs, and to help the community make the best possible choices about matters of deep common concern.

permalink | licenses/gpl/gpl3 | 2006.09.26-18:13.00

12 Apr 2005

Yet Another GPL3 Rumor

I’ll probably need a whole category for these as the process of updating the GPL begins to gather steam. It began with an article in internetnews.com reporting a conversation with Mike Olson of Sleepycat Software. Mike told internetnews.com that the Free Software Foundation was still thinking about the problem posed when someone modifies GPL’d web services software and goes into business providing competing services using the modified software, but without releasing the modifications to the community. Mike was right; that’s an issue FSF expects to address in GPLv3. Richard Stallman and I have both talked about it publicly.

But internetnews.com understood Mike to be saying that GPLv3 might somehow apply in a new way to the modifications made by companies that customize GPL’d software for their own use but never distribute to anybody else. This was confusing enough, and plainly wrong. We wouldn’t do that. But then someone went even further and posted to Slashdot suggesting that a future GPL might require users of free software, such as Amazon or Google, to pay fees simply for using GPL’d code.

Some Slashdot readers thought this last contribution was FUD or intentional flamebait. I hope it was just a silly but innocent error. Either way, the rumor was nonsense by itself, and I wouldn’t normally write in response to a nonsensical rumor. But the occasion gives me a chance to say something about reading GPLv3 news in general.

All future versions of the GPL will fully protect the freedoms that the Free Software Foundation defined decades ago, and which we believe all software users everywhere should be guaranteed. Freedom zero, the freedom to use software, is infringed if you are required to pay fees or make promises in order to use software, anywhere, anytime. FSF will never publish a license that violates freedom zero. Similarly, freedom two, the freedom to modify a program, and freedom three, the freedom to share, are violated if private modification is prohibited or sharing is required rather than permitted. You can always modify free software for your own use, and decide whether to share it with other people. If you share with others, the GPL says now and always will say that you have to give them the same freedoms you were given by others who contributed to the code you are using, modifying and redistributing.

FSF has promised the free software community generally, and the contributors to FSF-sponsored software projects in particular, that future versions of the GPL will conserve the spirit of the original license and protect the freedoms for which FSF stands. If you read a report claiming that FSF is considering license terms incompatible with the fundamental freedoms laid out in the preamble to the current GPL, you know it isn’t so.

permalink | licenses/gpl/gpl3 | 2005.04.12-14:51.00