The General Public License is not something to be messed with lightly, after all it is ‘the law’ as far as many open source projects are concerned. Which is why the Free Software Foundation is running into trouble with plans to introduce a proposed version 3 of the GPL to include changes dealing with DRM. When I say running into trouble, perhaps a better description would be driving a 10-ton truck of trouble right into a concrete wall of dissent would be a more apt description.

In a survey set up by Linux supremo Linus Torvalds, for example, 29 of the leading kernel coders were asked to rate the GPLv3 proposals on a scale ranging from -3 to 3. The highest it managed to score was 0, with 28 of those coders concluding it was worse than the GPL it is meant to replace. A lot worse, with the average score being a rather worrying -2 in fact.

The publication of a paper entitled ‘The Dangers and Problems with GPLv3’ and authored by 10 leading Linux coders would suggest that this really can no longer be treated as just a Torvalds hobby horse, but instead is a serious rebellion against the GPLv3 proposals. This paper argues that there could be a balkanization of the open source movement with Linux seller splitting projects between both versions, and goes on to suggest that ultimately it could jeopardize the survival of open source.

So where is the beef? Well mainly, it boils down to DRM issues. The GPLv3 draft dictates how the hardware running software covered by the license should handle Digital Rights Management. Something that Torvalds, and now others it appears, argue is extending the license inappropriately outside of the software realm. Furthermore, it is argued, that such definitions fall under the political banner rather than anything else.

Is there any point continuing with GPLv3, when it would appear that it is now already a dead duck? If those behind the Linux kernel, pretty much the most influential open source project using GPL, refuse to play ball then surely the game is over before it has begun. Certainly I cannot see the FSF getting GPLv3 into play by March 2007 as they have intended.

So far, Richard Stallman has remained unusually quiet. I suspect that will change any time now...

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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