04.06.07

Is the Microvell Clause Going to Be Completely Removed From GPLv3?

Posted in FSF, GPL, Rumour at 8:26 pm by Shane Coyle

Here are some of Allison Randal’s impressions of a recent conference call of the GPLv3 Drafting Committee A, in which she expresses the possibilities of not only possibly achieving Apache license compatibility after all, but the possibility that the "grandfather clause" may not be enough and the entire Microvell paragraph may be removed altogether.

First, the FSF (or at least the SFLC) recognizes that the “Microsoft/Novell clause” (paragraph 5, section 11) in the third draft may block not only deals that they consider dangerous, but also deals that they consider perfectly legitimate. The bracketed phrase at the end of the paragraph, granting amnesty for past deals, is motivated by exactly this problem: they don’t want to negatively impact companies who are friendly to free software and acting in a way that is entirely not harmful to free software. But amnesty for past deals doesn’t solve the problem for future deals. They will try to rephrase it in such a way that it doesn’t impact the legitimate deals. The task may prove impossible, which would significantly hinder any software agreements around GPL’d software, in which case they’ll remove the paragraph and address their goals in a different way. That’s a reasonable position and I respect it. Personally, I think removing it is the best solution. The 4th paragraph of the same section “…the patent license you grant is automatically extended to all recipients of the covered work and works based on it.” is adequate to meet the needs of free software, and fits very nicely with the philosophy of the GPL in general.

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