Children of GPL

Summary:Both the GPL and its children (LGPL and Affero) define a new kind of freedom, one with obligations, specifically the obligation to grant others the rights you claim for yourself. I believe history will come to regard them as important milestones, given their intended worldwide reach, their simple language, and their high ideals.

In all the hubbub over GPL Version 3, a lot of you may not know this is just one license that the Free Software Foundation manages. (The image stood at the top of Georg Greve's Brave Gnu World columns from 1999-2004.)

They also manage the LGPL, or the Lesser GPL. A new draft of this license was released April 3. As with the GPL itself, you can comment on the new LGPL, using an interface which does virtual highlighting of text and tells you how many comments are on any section when you mouse-over it.

Now for the news. The FSF has decided it will update a third license, creating Version 2 of the Affero GPL, or AGPL. This license is designed specifically for companies offering GPL code in the form of Software as a Service, like Adaptive Planning, whom I wrote about yesterday. Version 2 of Affero will be compatible with Version 3 of the GPL.

This should not be as confusing as it sounds. I find the GPL licenses fairly clear, for legal language. They are trusted by people and companies who contribute code to others' projects. They are understood, in a general way, as the bottom of the open source incline. While BSD licenses may be more popular as corporate governance, GPL licenses are more popular with individual coders.

Both the GPL and its children (LGPL and Affero) define a new kind of freedom, one with obligations, specifically the obligation to grant others the rights you claim for yourself. I believe history will come to regard them as important milestones, given their intended worldwide reach, their simple language, and their high ideals.

You, of course, are free to disagree below.

Topics: Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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