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Red Hat CEO praises GPL 3 changes

Red Hat Chief Executive Matthew Szulik had words of encouragement Thursday for the Free Software Foundation's latest draft of General Public License version 3, an overhaul to a license that underlies the heart of Linux and many other open-source projects.

"I think the draft we saw last night was much better than the earlier drafts, especially around patent infringement and TiVo-ization," he said in a conference call to recount Red Hat's quarterly profit.

The "TiVo-ization" situation regards the foundation's desire to prohibit GPL software from being used in hardware devices, such as TiVo's digital video recorders, that prevent users from making changes to software; the new GPL draft has narrowed such restrictions. And the patent requirements are also narrower, requiring companies to give license to patents relating to software they contribute to GPL projects, not when they distribute it, as required in earlier drafts.

In addition, Michael Tiemann, an Open Source Initiative board member and Red Hat's former chief technology officer, had warm words in a blog entry.

"I have read the newly released draft of GPLv3 carefully, and I believe it is a stunning accomplishment," Tiemann said. And the Free Software Foundation, he said, "remains centered on software freedom, and that the only prohibition they uphold is against those who seek to undermine such freedom. It is encouraging to see an organization maintain principle in the face of prosperity."

There are those who are unhappy with the new draft, too. Fabrizio Capobianco, CEO of open-source mobile-phone synchronization software company Funambol, griped on his blog about the foundation's decision not to pursue what's been called the ASP (application service provider) loophole. GPL requires programmers to publish modifications they've made to software when they distribute it, but some believed offering GPL software as a service over the network should count in effect as a form of distribution. The foundation explicitly decided not to pursue that option.

"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," Capobianco said. "That means 75 percent of the future software (which is going to be software as a service) could be offered by leeches that suck the soul of open source for their pure benefit. They make money, while others work for them for free, to make them rich."

However, Google, many of whose online services use Linux computers and which contributes to several open-source projects, is happy with the ASP situation, according to Chris DiBona, Google's manager of open-source programs, speaking to