Newsmaker: Defender of the GPL

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Eben Moglen's life just got a lot busier. The Columbia Law School professor and attorney representing the Free Software Foundation has the new role of explaining and overseeing the update to the General Public License (GPL). That document, being revised for the first time in 15 years, is not only the embodiment of the free software movement's principles but also the legal foundation for thousands of open-source software programs from Linux to MySQL.

Moglen's client is FSF founder and leader Richard Stallman, who seeks to propagate his philosophical and technical goals through the GPL. The license requires that the source code underlying any software it governs may be freely seen, modified and redistributed; if changes are made to software that's distributed, those changes must also be published under the GPL.

The draft of version 3 of the GPL doesn't change that fundamental mechanism, but it does take a more aggressive stance when it comes to patent law. Unlike 1991's version 2, the update explicitly tackles the issue of software patents. It also takes a stand against digital rights management technology--which the FSF dubs "digital restrictions management"--that encrypts or locks software or content to govern its use.

Moglen discussed the changed license terms, his concerns about how Linux uses the GPL, and troubles with TiVo and Hollywood in an interview with CNET News.com's Stephen Shankland and Martin LaMonica at a GPL 3 conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

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