New GPL licence touted as saviour of Linux, Android

Tough on lawyers, and on the causes of lawyers


The Free Software Foundation reckons its new version of the General Public Licence removes the problems bedevilling version two, but not everyone is convinced the problem even exists.

The FSF reckons that Linux developers need to move quickly to GPLv3 if they're to avoid Android (and similar Linux-based platforms) getting tied up in legal battles, despite the fact that many are claiming such battles are no more than figments in the eyes of publicity-hungry bloggers.

At issue is the clause in version two of the GPL which states that anyone breaching the restrictions irrevocably surrenders their rights under the licence. As just about every Android licensee has, at some point, failed to provide source code (or written notice of source code provision), then (the argument goes) they are all in breach of the GPLv2 and thus open to copyright suits from every Linux developer.

This was highlighted by IP attorney Edward Naughton, expounded by Florian Mueller, and reported by us. All this attention has prompted the FSF to explain that its latest licence fixes the problem completely.

Version three of the GPL allows the rights to be reinstated when compliance is re-established: so a company failing to distribute source code could remove the threat of suit by releasing the code, so the FSF has released a statement asking Linux developers to get into GPLv3 before it is too late:

"We urge developers who are releasing projects under GPLv2 to upgrade to GPLv3," says the statement, naming Android as the platform at risk. "Companies that sell products that use Android can help out by encouraging the developers of Linux to make the switch to GPLv3."

But despite the wording of the GPLv2, which rescinds licences for violations, it is far from clear whether it does, and (equally importantly) whether any of developers involved in Linux have the money (which would be needed to make the case) or inclination to start suing people for illegally using their code.

Linux developers are generally a benign bunch, unlikely to start raising capital to fund what would be a lengthy legal case, but the FSF argues that it is the fear of being sued that prevents companies using GPL code: a fear which may have little basis in fact.

"This is just one of many reasons why GPLv3 is better than GPLv2. This change has already given some companies the reassuring nudge they needed to start distributing GPL-covered software, and we expect to see more of that in the future."

IT World reckons the FSF shouldn't be using fear of a non-existent threat to promote its new licence, but anything that puts companies off the free alternatives is a problem. The threat might never be realised, but with the GPLv3 it definitely won't be. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Microsoft unveils Android apps for Windows 11 (for US users only)

    Windows Insiders get their hands on the Windows Subsystem for Android

    Microsoft has further teased the arrival of the Windows Subsystem for Android by detailing how the platform will work via a newly published document for Windows Insiders.

    The document, spotted by inveterate Microsoft prodder "WalkingCat" makes for interesting reading for developers keen to make their applications work in the Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA).

    WSA itself comprises the Android OS based on the Android Open Source Project 1.1 and, like the Windows Subsystem for Linux, runs in a virtual machine.

    Continue reading
  • Software Freedom Conservancy sues TV maker Vizio for GPL infringement

    Companies using GPL software should meet their obligations, lawsuit says

    The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), a non-profit which supports and defends free software, has taken legal action against Californian TV manufacturer Vizio Inc, claiming "repeated failures to fulfill even the basic requirements of the General Public License (GPL)."

    Member projects of the SFC include the Debian Copyright Aggregation Project, BusyBox, Git, GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers, Homebrew, Mercurial, OpenWrt, phpMyAdmin, QEMU, Samba, Selenium, Wine, and many more.

    The GPL Compliance Project is described as "comprised of copyright holders in the kernel, Linux, who have contributed to Linux under its license, the GPLv2. These copyright holders have formally asked Conservancy to engage in compliance efforts for their copyrights in the Linux kernel."

    Continue reading
  • DRAM, it stacks up: SK hynix rolls out 819GB/s HBM3 tech

    Kit using the chips to appear next year at the earliest

    Korean DRAM fabber SK hynix has developed an HBM3 DRAM chip operating at 819GB/sec.

    HBM3 (High Bandwidth Memory 3) is a third generation of the HBM architecture which stacks DRAM chips one above another, connects them by vertical current-carrying holes called Through Silicon Vias (TSVs) to a base interposer board, via connecting micro-bumps, upon which is fastened a processor that accesses the data in the DRAM chip faster than it would through the traditional CPU socket interface.

    Seon-yong Cha, SK hynix's senior vice president for DRAM development, said: "Since its launch of the world's first HBM DRAM, SK hynix has succeeded in developing the industry's first HBM3 after leading the HBM2E market. We will continue our efforts to solidify our leadership in the premium memory market."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021