Torvalds' comments on GPLv3 committees refuted: Looking for feedback.

A NewsForge article by Bruce Byfield includes:

Torvalds' comments should probably be read in the context of his statement that his particular concerns, notably the mention of DRM, have not been addressed. Yet, in fact, they have been. In an interview with NewsForge, Eben Moglen, who heads the revision process, specifically mentioned that some changes in the second draft were specifically made in response to Torvalds' concerns. Apparently, the changes were not enough to satisfy Torvalds, who has ideological differences with the FSF, but that is no reason to condemn the process itself as hypocritical.

I have weighed in on this debate with the earlier article Whose hardware is it anyway?, and the followup comments to the version of this article on the Digital Copyright Canada website.

I am curious what the views of other CLUE members are on the debate surrounding the GPL version 3 consultation process, and the GPLv3 itself. I am wanting to look past the misinformation and misunderstandings, and to find answers to specific questions.. Please join the discuss@ mailing list and post your comments.

Q: Have you read the second draft of the GNU General Public License version 3? Have you read the rational?

Cryptography can be used as a technical measure such that only the holder of the right cryptographic keys can access a device or some digital message, or otherwise control the device.

Draft 2 of the GPLv3 identifies a specific problem with this type of technical measure:

Some computers are designed to deny users access to install or run modified versions of the software inside them. This is fundamentally incompatible with the purpose of the GPL, which is to protect users' freedom to change the software. Therefore, the GPL ensures that the software it covers will not be restricted in this way.

Q: Do you believe that a manufacturer should be allowed to use such a technical measure to lock the owner of a device out of their own property, treating the owner of the device as the attacker and disallowing them from being able to access or control the device without the permission of the manufacturer?

The GNU General Public License is intended to be a reciprocal license (Known as CopyLeft), meaning that not only is the current version of the software protect the freedoms offered by Free Software, but that any derivatives do at all. The license is worded such that you are allowed to modify and use the software on your own computer without having to release source code, but that if you distribute a binary that you must distribute in a way that protects the freedoms of the recipient. This has traditionally been interpreted to only mean that you must distribute source code, but in fact it really means that you must distribute the software in such a way that the recipient of the software has the freedom to "to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software". The use of a technical measure by a manufacturer means that they could distribute source code, but that if the owner modifies it in any way that they would not be able to run it on their own hardware.

Q: Do you believe that it should be legal for a device manufacturer to circumvents the intent of the GNU GPL by allowing them to distribute GPL licensed software to the purchasers of their hardware in a way which revokes any of the freedoms the license was intended to protect?

The current version 2 of the GPL might be interpreted in its current language to protect against distributors which use technical measures to circumvent the intent of the license. Other people disagree, and suggest that the current wording could not protect against this abuse.

Q: Do you believe it is important for the FSF to update the license to clarify that technical measures can not be used by a hardware manufacturer that distributes GPL licensed software as a way to circumvent the license in a way that might not have been explicitly documented in previous versions of the license?

It has been suggested that a software license is not the right place for politics, and that a campaign against DRM should not be included in the GPL.

Q: Do you believe that the inclusion of language that prohibits the use of GPL licensed software in a way that denies users' rights through technical measures is appropriate or inappropriate?

The preamble language of draft 2 contain the following about software patents

Finally, every program is threatened constantly by software patents. States should not allow patents to restrict development and use of software on general-purpose computers, but in places where they do, we wish to avoid the special danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, the GPL assures that patents cannot be used to render the program non-free.

Q: Do you believe it is appropriate to ensure that those who distribute GPL licensed software offer a covenant that they will not sue other distributors or users of the software for any patents that may be claimed on methods in the software?

Q: Are there aspects of the wording in draft 2 of GPLv3 that concern you?