Skip to main content

General Public License 3.0: A draft too far?

"Aggressive" is the word, or rather adjective, that struck IT commentators as the world got news of the latest version of the world’s most popular open source license, General Public License (GPL) 3.0.

This piece of legalese is an essential part of thousands of open source software that is released to the public domain and, therefore, what is written inside can have a profound impact on the rest of the IT industry.

GPL 3.0 has been described by analysts as being highly aggressive towards the digital right management (DRM) movement. The writers of the GPL 3.0 license argue that open source is fundamentally incompatible with DRM limitations set by the entertainment industry, which hurts the consumer rather than assisting them.

Whether this will be a workable license remains to be seen as some hardware manufacturers, like TiVO, have started using open source software in conjunction with DRM. Also, the forthcoming ViiV and Live! platforms, proposed by Intel and AMD respectively, will be built as DRM compatible systems.

At the end of the day, you can bet a bucket load of crisp pound notes that some will use Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) to cast a dark cloud over the open source movement.

Hardware makers (because they will be sandwiched between the hammer and the anvil) and end users (because they will end up with less choice) are the most likely losers.

GPL 3.0 has been updated for the first time since 1991 and while it is still a draft, it may be one too far.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.