GPL incompatibilities with Apache to be ironed out

Aim is to ease code usage under Apache and GPL together in the same application, Free Software Foundation manager says

The Free Software Foundation, in upgrading the GNU General Public License, intends to iron out any incompatibilities with similar licenses from organizations such as the Apache Software Foundation.

This goal is to make it easier to use code under Apache and GPL together in the same application, said Brett Smith, license compliance manager at the Free Software Foundation, on Thursday.

"We've been working on a new version of our license, the GNU GPL, and one of our goals for that license from the very beginning was to provide compatibility with other free software licenses," Smith said. Version 3 of the GPL is expected to be finalized in June or July, he said.

An inconsistency with the Apache license involves a potential interpretation of Apache rules that would have rendered it incompatible with GPL version 3, Smith said. An indemnification clause in the Apache license stipulates that if a software provider offers a warranty on its software, then the provider would have to indemnify other contributors to the program from being liable for that warranty.

The clause is vague on what kind of indemnification would have to be provided, Smith said. It could be construed as an additional restriction that is not part of GPL 3, he said. The GPL requires that code offered under the GPL cannot be combined with code that carries additional restrictions, Smith said.

For now, the foundation continues the process of ensuring compatibility and working out changes to the GPL. Negotiations are ongoing with Apache.

"The exact details of how we're going to achieve compatibility [are] still being worked out but we've made a lot of good progress over the last couple of months," Smith said. "We're going to get there, that's for sure.

What is expected is that the foundation will allow code under GPL 3 to be combined with code that has certain indemnification requirements, Smith said.

GPL 3 is intended to enable everyone who gets a copy of a GPL-affected program to have the same rights to use, share, and change it. "The latest version of the GPL addresses a number of new threats to software freedom," Smith said.

Recently, some persons have found ways to circumvent GPL terms through technical measures and GPL 3 addresses that, Smith said. One improvement ensures that when a program is modified under GPL 3, there is more protection from being sued for patent infringement, he said.

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