FSF looking to raise $500,000 for GPL 3 evangelizing

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) announced the receipt of its first funding to help spread the word about the next version of the GPL (general public license), GPL 3, Tuesday, according to Peter Brown, executive director of the organization. With GPL 3 likely to appear in early 2007, FSF work to highlight the new license will occur under the newly created GPL Version 3 Development and Publicity Project, he added.

The GPL is the most popular license for free software and was created by Richard Stallman in 1989 for the GNU free software operating system project. Version 2 of the GPL appeared in 1991. The license gives users the right to freely study, copy, modify, reuse, share and redistribute software.

"We're probably looking for US$500,000 by the end of the year," Brown said in an interview. "Our initial plan is to raise US$350,000." The money will be used to fund the efforts of the GPL Version 3 Development and Publicity Project to reach out to different communities around the world, particularly artistic communities, to raise awareness of the free software movement, he added.

The FSF actively sought the first funding for the project, a Euro 150,000 (AUD$243,260) grant from previous patron Dutch nonprofit open-source networking technology foundation Stichting NLnet, according to Brown. The FSF intends to pass on some of this and future funding to its sister organizations -- FSF Europe, FSF India and FSF Latin America, as well as to other free software organizations to encourage them to mount their own publicity campaigns for GPL 3, he said.

Internationalizing the GPL is one of the main tasks at hand when drafting GPL 3, Brown said. Over the past 20 years, the FSF has collected around 6,000 copyright assignments from developers around the world where developers have assigned the copyright of the software they created to the organization. About 40 percent of those developers come from outside the U.S., he noted.

Resolving incompatibilities with other licenses is also a key area for GPL 3 to address, according to Brown, while retaining all the user freedoms guaranteed in the GPL. If a complete resolution isn't possible, at least GPL 3 will be a step toward dealing with the incompatibility issues, he said.

The license also needs to reflect changes in technology, most notably the emergence of Web services, when what's being redistributed is not a copy of the software itself, but a service based on that software, Brown said.

With the FSF estimating it may receive as many as 150,000 comments once a draft GPL 3.0 is circulated either late this year or early in 2006, the organization is starting to build the infrastructure necessary to handle that input, according to Brown. "We're putting together a document over the coming months that will detail how we'll go about it," he said. There'll be a steady "drip, drip" of information from FSF in relation to GPL 3 from now until the end of the year, Brown added.

Brown commented on an earlier Reuters story Tuesday quoting FSF Europe President Georg Greve on the possible inclusion of a patent retaliation clause in GPL 3. The idea would be that someone who patents software would forfeit the right to use free software, notably those companies that employ digital rights management (DRM) applications.

So far, nothing is set in stone as far as inclusion in GPL 3 is concerned, according to Brown. "People have plucked things from the air," he said.

However, Brown reiterated FSF's position on patents and DRM software. "We believe that software patents have no place," he said. "DRM is all about restricting individuals' freedoms."

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