GPL 3 release could slip past March

New draft of revamped open-source General Public License is due soon, but final release schedule is open, FSF executive director says.

The Free Software Foundation is no longer committing to the planned March deadline for a new version of the General Public License, but a third draft of the seminal open-source license is due soon.

When the foundation began its GPL revamp, it planned to release a final "last call" draft by January 15 and the GPL 3 itself "no later than March 2007." Now, however, Executive Director Peter Brown isn't willing to pin down a firm schedule.

"We are still working on the last-call draft, and I hope that we will get that out within the next two or three weeks. Beyond that, we haven't made any decision about the final release date," Brown said.

The GPL revamp has been a complicated process, with innumerable individuals as well as corporate powers wanting to have a say. Linus Torvalds and other core programmers of the Linux kernel--arguably the most successful and visible GPL project--have sharply criticized GPL 3's handling of digital rights management, and Hewlett-Packard has objected to a detail of a patent protection provision. On the other hand, Sun Microsystems likes the GPL 3 and is considering it for both Java and OpenSolaris.

A wrinkle emerged in November with a patent and technology partnership between Linux seller Novell and Microsoft. Under the deal, Microsoft agreed not to sue Novell Linux customers for patent infringement. (The complex deal also involves patent-related payments going in both directions, joint marketing, and Microsoft sales of Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server.)

"Certainly, that has occupied our minds," Brown said.

Foundation founder Richard Stallman said in a November talk that the most recent draft of the GPL wouldn't have prohibited the deal, but that language is being adjusted so the final version will.

"It's a good thing that Microsoft did this now, because we discovered that the text we had written for GPL version 3 would not have blocked this. But it's not too late, and we're going to make sure that when GPL version 3 really comes out, it will block such deals," Stallman said.

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