Flashes of Blue

Posted on Thu 29 March 2007 in geek

The FSF released the third (and final?) draft of the GPLv3 yesterday. The current GPL is a seminal document that has arguably done more to enable the free software ecosystem than any other software license. It's the default license I apply to software I release.

The GPLv3 draft however is controversial in it's attempt to hold back the tide of embedded devices that utilise FLOSS software but prevent people tinkering with them. The problem being that it's all very well being supplied with source code but, assuming you get over the hurdles of how to build it, it's no uses if you can't play with your modified creation. This is usually done by requiring some sort of DRM or code signing so the hardware will only accept blessed binaries. The trouble is, despite my numerous diatribes on the subject, there are some valid uses for DRM type stuff. You wouldn't want a diagnostic medical station to just accept any binary it was fed for example. The draft attempts some legal sophistry in an attempt to define "household objects" to go after the Tivo's of this world however how successful this will be remains to be seen. The cumulative effect of these changes seem to be chipping away at Freedom 0 - the right to run the program for any purpose. I'm sure there will be many days of pontification to come on the subject although I'd love to know what the real lawyers think.