30 March 2007

GPLv3: Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mewed

Judging by the some articles, everything is now sweetness and light regarding GNU GPLv3, with those big buddies Richard and Linus gazing langorously in each other's (metaphorical) eye.

But someone sees things a little differently:

Last night, I read the last draft of GPLv3 on my cell phone during dinner in Orlando. I went looking for the provision they had in the last draft, the one that closes the GPLv2 ASP loophole that forced me to create HPL. In a nutshell, it is the ability of running GPLv2 software as a service (SaaS) without returning any changes to the community, because distribution of software as a service might not technically be considered distribution of software (therefore circumventing the copyleft clause that made open source what it is today). That is what Google does, making gazillions of dollars thanks to Linux and open source but keeping its secret sauce concealed from the rest of the world (but contributing in many other ways, therefore cleaning its conscience, I guess).

The provision is not there. Gone. They dropped the ball. Actually, it has been made very clear that the ASP loophole is not a loophole anymore. It is perfectly fine to change GPLv3 software and offer it to the public as a service, without returning the changes to the community.

This is an interesting point, although I tend to view SaaS as yesterday's big idea, so it may not be a major problem. See also the comments on the above posting for more (and more coherent) thoughts on this.

Update: More negative vibes here. It will be interesting to see how this develops. I've not read the latest draft yet, so don't really have a strong view either way.

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