HP may fork the GPL

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A proposed patent provision in a revamped General Public License isn't sitting well at Hewlett-Packard, raising concerns that two competing versions of the licence could survive.

The GPL governs thousands of open source projects, and version 3 represent's the Free Software Foundation first explicit attempt to grapple with the thorny issue of software patents. But HP prefers version 2 to the GPLv3 draft released on 27 July, arguing that it imposes disproportionate patent consequences for a company that distributes even a single copy of GPLv3 software carrying technology the company has patented.

The Free Software Foundation, which is in charge of the licence overhaul, is optimistic that middle ground will be found. The stakes are high. HP's wariness, and Linux leader Linus Torvalds' objections to the update, raise the possibility that version 2 may remain in circulation. And that would increase, rather than reduce, the profusion of open source licences, complicating programming and legal issues.

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