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GPL upgrade set for Friday

A controversial update to the GNU GPL (General Public License) is set to be released Friday by the Free Software Foundation, a representative of the organization said on Tuesday.

GPL version 3 is arriving 16 years after version 2 of the license for open-source software. Questions remain, however, about who exactly will adopt it.

Among improvements is a copyright technology not found anywhere in the world with the goal of providing uniformity in different jurisdictions, said Brett Smith, licensing compliance engineer for the foundation.

“There’s a lot of copyright laws that talk about distribution, but they don’t mean the same thing,” in different places, he said.

“Now, GPL talks about propagation and conveying,” Smith said. With this new provision, the terms are the same everywhere worldwide, he said.

Version 3 also works to ensure that users can modify software installed on personal computers or in household devices. If software is conveyed inside a device, users must be given enough information so they can modify the software in the device, Smith said.

An explicit patent provision in GPL 3 means people who contribute to free software cannot sue users for patent infringement, Smith said. This was not clear in the GPL previously.

“This will make sure it’s very clear and works across the board,” he said.

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GNU, GPL, General Public License

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