Mozilla, Firefox, Linux, and GPL3

This article at on the forthcoming third version of the General Public License is quite interesting. It mentions that there is the spectre of licence-incompatible forks of various GPL licensed projects like the Linux kernel. Now, I humbly ask the greater Mozilla community some questions. What do we know about GPL3 that might be incompatible with GPL2? What is’s current stance (if any) on GPL3 and moving to it (relative to the current trilicense using GPL2)? What are your opinions on it so far, and why do you hold those opinions? And if three years from now we do move to include GPL3 instead of GPL2, what issues do we face?



  1. basic had this to say,

    March 25, 2005 @ 8:30 am

    well the current tri-license uses the "or later" clause, so my guess is that if we do not change the wording, gpl3 would be included. I’m not sure if this is wise, since I’ve no idea what gpl3 looks like, otoh if we change the license not to include gpl3 and later find that we want that, it would be alot of trouble to change again…

  2. mvirkkil had this to say,

    March 25, 2005 @ 6:23 pm

    The thing most people fear with gpl3 is the clause about forcing companies to reveal their code if the offer a service that is build on top of gpl3 software.

    An example would be a public website running on partly gpl’d software. Another would be if say a pharmacy would have an info terminal. A third would be if a cooking show would have promotional recipe terminals placed in or rented to grocery-stores.

    The question is if the website/pharmacy/cooking show sould be forced to release their software. Many argue that gpl was caused by the frustration of not being able to make modifications to code running on your own computer. The new gpl would limit companies from using it in a service (running on the company’s own computer) unless they release the code.

  3. Grey had this to say,

    March 25, 2005 @ 8:25 pm

    mvirkkil: I’d hate to see GPL3 include a cluase like that, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it would make the claims by Closed Source advocates that the GPL is viral, true. Plus, you should be free to release your software or not to release it if you please. Forcing the issue would jsut take away another freedom, which the GPL is already somewhat restrictive about. I would argue the MPL is more free than the GPL. Making is more strict would create a chilling effect on the thriving OSS movement.

  4. mvirkkil had this to say,

    March 28, 2005 @ 1:35 am

    The company I work for uses linux and other Free software for the base of creating something similar to info-terminals that we place in stores. Basically we are the customer for the shop that agrees to let us put our terminal in their store. This results in that the public has access to our product, and we would not be able to use gpl3 software.

    Now mind you I’m not saying that it would be ethically wrong to force us to release our code, since we are using gpl’d software. I’m just saying that that is not an option for us due to several reasons.

    Now as I’m quite the zealot here, and I know we could probably clean up our code to the point where we would be able to comply even with gpl3 (as long as the libraries we use stay lgpl’d) so I’m not too nervous about the gpl3. This is however not a view shared by all the other people working on linux based solutions, and even for us the workload would be quite huge.

    While morally I agree that the gpl3 clause giving the same freedom to people using a piece of software locally(=any program on your computer. Covered by gpl2) and remotely (=service. New in gpl3), it is bound to cause a lot of anxiety in companies looking at the Free software scene.

    On the other hand, every developer has the right to use what ever license they like for their code, and gpl is one license that does impose restrictions on its use, but it does so to guarantee certain Freedoms. If that is not a consern, the developer can always use the MIT license or even release his code as public domain.