Thursday Mar 06, 2008 goes to LGPLv3

Slipstreaming Gull

You may recall that a team from Sun devoted a great deal of time to the process of drafting the GPLv3. Our engagement was not just the monitoring exercise that I suspect it was for many of the corporate participants. It was always my hope that Sun would use the license for significant software projects.

Since then, the FSF has made some welcome clarifications to the license and Sun released its first project, Openxvm, as GPLv3. The next step for us has been to review the licensing for We consulted widely in the community and received an overwhelming response on a number of proposed modifications to the project, starting with the license. The LGPL has served well, so the move to LGPL v3 seemed very logical. LGPLv3 is actually almost identical to GPLv3, but with an additional clause limiting the scope of the requirement to release source code under the same license.

Upgrading to the LGPLv3 brings important new protections to the community, most notably through the new language concerning software patents. You may know that I am personally an opponent of software patents, and that Sun has already taken steps in this area with a patent non-assert covenant for ODF. But the most important protection for developers comes from creating mutual patent grants between developers. LGPLv3 does this.

So it's a pleasure to be able to say that Sun supports the community's input.'s license will change to LGPLv3 as part of a broader set of changes intended to improve the community for everyone. Those changes also include a switch to the latest version of the standard Sun contributor agreement, with an addendum specifically tailored to the needs of the community. There's increased latitude for documentation writers to publish their work on And in future, plugins for may host their source code directly on the community site without copyright being shared, helping collaboration within the community.

There's more news about's infrastructure as well as the project's governance - see Jim's blog for more detail as well as Louis' community announcement. For all the details, you can listen to a discussion Barton George had with Michael Bemmer, the development director of at Sun, his boss Jim Parkinson, and with Peter Brown, Executive Director of the Free Software Foundation, on this podcast: [MP3]-[Ogg].

Wednesday Mar 28, 2007

GPLv3 Third Draft

Quince flowers

The third draft of the GPLv3 came out this morning. There's a lot of text there, and obviously I've not had time to read it all yet (especially the long explanatory document). I took a quick look at the 'redline' over breakfast and there are some welcome enhancements, such as the explicit explanation about software-as-a-service:

To “convey” a work means any kind of propagation that enables other parties to make or receive copies, excluding sublicensing. Mere inter- action with a user through a computer network, with no transfer of a copy, is not conveying.

The language concerning DRM has also changed substantially and now sits in section 6 and relates to the use of the code in "User Products", which could really change the implications of that mechanism:

A “User Product” is either (1) a “consumer product”, which means any tangible personal property which is normally used for personal, family, or household purposes, or (2) anything designed or sold for incorporation into a dwelling.

There's been a substantial rework to the stuff about exceptions in section 7. In its previous form, this section provided a basis for various different license to be mixed, but the new version seems to provide less opportunity for that. I wish we could work out mechanisms to allow the various FOSS communities to mix their work more easily.

I'm also not clear on the implications of the new language added to section 11 to affect patents, which is intended to close the loophole Microsoft and Novell used to get round the GPLv2. I need to read it several times before coming to a conclusion.

Over and above the actual license terms, there's a big change to the time-line. I'd been expecting the final draft; this is now an extra interim draft, and we'll not see the final version until the summer. And there are several signs that we'll see more frequent updates to the license - there are indications that the DRM stuff might be extended to different kinds of devices, for example. All very interesting, I know there will be a lot of discussion about this inside Sun over the next few weeks.

Thursday Nov 30, 2006

Will Sun Use GPLv3?

Some people have been throwing rocks at the GPLv3 process from outside, and others have been accusing Sun of joining the rock throwers by opting for GPL v2 for the Java platform. Here's why I disagree with both.[Read More]

Thoughts and pointers on digital freedoms and technology markets. With a few photos too.


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