Since there is quite a bit of misinformation (or at least
disagreement) about the GPLv3 and the process around it, I thought it
would be useful to attempt to engage the CLUE community on this issue
again. While there was quite a bit of discussion on the
Digital-copyright.ca BLOG about the article "Whose hardware is it
anyway", there was not much on the CLUE site. I'm also hoping by moving
the discussion to this mailing list that more people will feel
The online version at http://www.cluecan.ca/node/357 contains various
links, but the raw text (so people can just hit 'reply') is as follows:
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
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
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
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
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
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
Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant:
Please help us tell the Canadian Parliament to protect our property
rights as owners of Information Technology. Sign the petition!
"The government, lobbied by legacy copyright holders and hardware
manufacturers, can pry my camcorder, computer, home theater, or
portable media player from my cold dead hands!"
discuss mailing list