According to the Free Software Foundation’s general counsel, Eben Moglen, GPL version 3 would prevent the type of deal made by Microsoft and Novell from happening.

Moglen told delegates at a GPL V3 symposium held at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) that the deal would not happen again is due to an addition of a clause that would force anybody making provisions to a set of users have to extend that provision to all users. Translated that means that the patent deal Microsoft has made to Novell would have to be extended to all Linux users. Moglen told the audience he hoped that the new GPL would make Microsoft retract their new patent deal.

Reinforcing Moglen’s comments was Samba founder, Andrew “Tridge” Tridgell. Tridge said the GPL allowed developers to respond to a changing legal environment otherwise “bit-rot” would set in and the direction of the licence would be determined by the courts. With a new licence, developers could remain on the front foot and respond to the new threats from patents, the DCMA and DRM.

According to Moglen and Tridge internationalisation is among the new initiatives contained inside the new GPL. References to the US legal system and statues have been replaced with their international equivalents and this version of the licence can work within all major legal systems. Although parts of the new licence may appear tautologous, Moglen explained that that was to combat the different legal systems. For instance Section 3 of the new licence has language that addresses both the EU legal system and the DCMA. Flexibility has been added for local warranty provisions which can now be made by the expansion of Section 7b.

Of particular interest to Australian developers will be how the Trade Practices Act and how the latest Copyright Law changes will affect the interpretation. To give an Australian angle on the changes, the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre will be putting in a submission to the Free Software Foundation.

According to the Free Software Foundation simplification between the GPL and LGPL will occur in version 3 with the LGPL simply being the GPL with some permissions added. As a thought exercise, Moglen said that he had made equivalents to the Apache and Eclipse licences as Section 7a additions to the GPL.

The GPL is said to be launched on March 15th 2007 with a last call draft to be published in 3 to 4 weeks time.