Third Discussion Draft of GPLv3 Released

As promised, and after more than an 8-month delay, the FSF has released a 3rd discussion draft of version 3 of the GNU General Public License. Much has occurred in the time since the release of the second discussion draft of GPLv3 back in July of 2006 – notably, the announcement of the highly controversial business and IP cross-licensing agreements between Microsoft-Novell. The second discussion draft of GPLv3 appears to address many of these events. In particular, it takes very specific aim at the Microsoft-Novell deal in a modified Section 11 of the draft. I am certain there will be plenty of discussion on these modifications before the final version of GPLv3 is released. I will be presenting on GPLv3 at the Rocky Mountain IP Institute on May 25th in Denver and will post my thoughts before the presentation.

As with past drafts, the text of the draft itself is available on the FSF web site.

The official FSF press release is included below.   Note that the FSF goes on record in the press release that the third discussion draft will be open for comment for a period of 60 days.  Following this period, the FSF plans a “last call” draft.  The last call draft will be open for an addition 30 days, with the (dare I say it) “final” draft of GPLv3 released shortly thereafter.  If my math is accurate, that puts the release of the final draft of GPLv3 right around Independence Day here in the States.  I will leave it to you all to decide whether this is merely a coincidence.  ;-)

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA—Wednesday, March 28, 2007—The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today released the third discussion draft for version 3 of the most widely used free software license, the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL).

Today’s draft incorporates the feedback received from the general public, official discussion committees, and two international conferences held in India and Japan. Many significant changes have been made since the previous draft, released in July 2006. In recognition of this fact, the FSF now plans to publish one additional draft before the final text of GPL version 3.

Changes in this draft include:

* First-time violators can have their license automatically restored if
they remedy the problem within thirty days.

* License compatibility terms have been simplified, with the goal of
making them easier to understand and administer.

* Manufacturers who include the software in consumer products must also
provide installation information for the software along with the
source. This change provides more narrow focus for requirements that
were proposed in previous drafts.

* New patent requirements have been added to prevent distributors from
colluding with patent holders to provide discriminatory protection
from patents.

Richard Stallman, president of the FSF and principal author of the GNU GPL, said, “The GPL was designed to ensure that all users of a program receive the four essential freedoms which define free software. These freedoms allow you to run the program as you see fit, study and adapt it for your own purposes, redistribute copies to help your neighbor, and release your improvements to the public. The recent patent agreement between Microsoft and Novell aims to undermine these freedoms. In this draft we have worked hard to prevent such deals from making a mockery of free software.”

Today’s draft will be open for discussion for sixty days. The FSF will solicit input in a wide array of public venues and make changes as needed in response. After this period, it will release a “last call” draft, followed by another thirty days for discussion before the FSF’s board of directors approves the final text of GPL version 3.

More information about this draft is available at, including the full text, detailed explanations of the latest changes, and new plans for finalizing the license. As with the previous drafts, the FSF encourages community members to provide feedback on the new draft at this site.

About the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL)

The GNU GPL is the most widely used free software license worldwide: almost three quarters of all free software packages are distributed under this license. It is not, however, the only free software license.

Richard Stallman wrote the version 1 and 2 of the GNU GPL with legal advice from Perkins, Smith & Cohen. Version 1 was released in 1989, and version 2 in 1991. Since 1991, free software use has increased tremendously, and computing practices have changed, introducing new opportunities and new threats. In 2005, Stallman began revising the GPL for version 3. In January 2006, the FSF began a systematic process of public review and feedback, with legal advice and organizational support from the Software Freedom Law Center.

About the GNU Operating System and Linux

Richard Stallman announced in September 1983 the plan to develop a free software Unix-like operating system called GNU. GNU is the only operating system developed specifically for the sake of users’ freedom. See

In 1992, the essential components of GNU were complete, except for one, the kernel. When in 1992 the kernel Linux was re-released under the GNU GPL, making it free software, the combination of GNU and Linux formed a complete free operating system, which made it possible for the first time to run a PC without non-free software. This combination is the GNU/Linux system. For more explanation, see

The GNU components in the GNU system will be released under GPL version 3, once it is finalized. The licensing of Linux will be decided by the developers of Linux. If they decide to stay with GPL version 2, then the GNU/Linux system will contain GNU packages using GNU GPL version 3, alongside Linux under GNU GPL version 2. Many other packages with various licenses make up the full GNU/Linux system.

About Free Software and Open Source

The free software movement’s goal is freedom for computer users. Some, especially corporations, advocate a different viewpoint, known as “open source”, which cites only practical goals such as making software powerful and reliable, focuses on development models, and avoids discussion of ethics and freedom. These two viewpoints are different at the deepest level. For more explanation, see

The GNU GPL is used by developers with various views, but it was written to serve the ethical goals of the free software movement. Says Stallman, “The GNU GPL makes sense in terms of its purpose: freedom and social solidarity. Trying to understand it in terms of the goals and values of open source is like trying understand a CD drive’s retractable drawer as a cupholder. You can use it for that, but that is not what it was designed for.”

About The Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users’ right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software—particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants—and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software. Its Web site, located at, is an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF’s work can be made at Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

Media contact

Brett Smith
Licensing Compliance Engineer
Free Software Foundation
617-542-5942 x18



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