GPL tries to make legal language fit lofty goals

Will the new version of the GPL supplant the old quickly, slowly, or not at all? While the goal of the GPL has always been to insulate software development from lawyers and markets, it's the lawyers and markets that will in the end decide its fate.

The newest draft of the GPL is out. (Art from GNUart.)

Personally I like the preamble best. It's conversational. It's clear. It has high ideals.

The question is whether the lawyer language in the rest of the document matches the goals of the preamble. Anyone versed in Constitutional Law will tell you just how difficult that task is.

As promised the new terms attack software patents hard, especially as they apply to the Microsoft-Novell agreement. But there is also a lot here on the topic of embedded software. Cisco's repeated GPL violations have gotten the attention they deserve.

The resulting license is long, with every term defined, and every imaginable scenario explained. Given the legal history surrounding GPL Version 2, and the high idealism of the Free Software Foundation, this isn't a surprise.

Comments have just begun coming in. The hope is the process will be done and the license available for use by summer.

Then comes the real test. Will the new version of the GPL supplant the old quickly, slowly, or not at all? While the goal of the GPL has always been to insulate software development from lawyers and markets, it's the lawyers and markets that will in the end decide its fate.

 

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