GPL 3 may contain patent retaliation clause

The free software licence may penalise litigious companies that hold software patents

The next version of the GPL may contain a clause to penalise companies that use software patents against free software.

GPL version 3, a draft of which will be released in January 2006, may contain a patent retaliation clause, Georg Greve, the president of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Europe, said on Tuesday. Such a clause would mean that if a company accused a free software product of infringing its software patents, that company would lose the right to distribute that product.

Joachim Jakobs from FSF Europe said such a clause would only affect companies that used their software patents against free software. "We don't want to hinder people from using free software if they merely hold software patents," said Jakobs.

The GPL may also contain a clause to penalise companies that use copy-restriction technologies. "There could be something that addresses this if we can find a sensible way to put it," said Greve.

It is not certain at present whether anti-software patent and anti-DRM clauses will actually make it into GPL 3, said Greve.

"These are things that are being tossed around, but whether, how and in what form it will take place, we don't know," he said. "Even Richard Stallman [the author of the GPL] hasn't sat down to work it out yet."

The next version of the GPL is also expected to offer improved compatibility with other free software licences and improved internationalisation.


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