Toward an honest GPL

The purpose of having an open license-writing process is to find compromise, not to just give he appearance of listening while leaders impose their own solution.

Funambol CEO Fabrizio Capobianco (left) has a fascinating post up today about what he calls the Honest Public License, a proposal that the GPL close what he calls the "ASP loophole."

The loophole appeared as distribution of GPL software moved to the Web. When software is a service, does everything that service touch become subject to the GPL? "I have always included distribution of software as a service in my interpretation of the GPL, but I am not a lawyer," he writes.

The issue is important to Capobianco because Funambol is a mobile open source company. Everything it does is over-the-air, and service-oriented. Getting this right is essential to the development of the mobile open source space.

So this being open source, the non-lawyer then proceeds to write some legal language. (I love that about this space.) His post links to a draft of what he calls the Honest Public License, along with a page which compares this language to the present GPL.

The goal of HPL is to keep the community honest with itself. The use of the name "Honest" is ABSOLUTELY not intended to mean that GPL or any other licenses are dishonest. It is quite the opposite, actually. But some people are taking advantage of a GPL legal loophole and are defeating the spirit of the GPL. HPL is just GPL extended to cover the distribution of software as a service to the public. It does not take away any freedom (i.e. you can use it internally in your corporation), it just covers when someone distributes the code to the public (whether with a floppy or as a service). It is meant to keep people honest with their community.

Given the continuing disagreements between Linus Torvalds and the FSF concerning GPLv3, I think this is a valuable contribution. The purpose of having an open license-writing process is to find compromise, not to just give he appearance of listening while leaders impose their own solution.

We need to all find a way to get along. It's hang together time.

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