I read the “So much for ‘new and improved’ GPL” Perspective on CNET today and was stunned by the level of hysteria portrayed by the author about the risk to content creators. His rhetorical redirection is transparent to everyone familiar with the issue and serves only to whip up controversy where there is none.
Neither the GPLv3 draft version 3, nor the GPLv2 ever contemplate asserting copyleft provisions on application level programs (i.e. content). To suggest otherwise is simply wrong.
The author cites the FSF being ‘hostile’ toward DRM in Draft 1 of v3, then goes on to infer that Bruce Perens has flip-flopped on his interpretation of the GPLv3 and DRM by conveniently omitting that the references he cites are comments on two separate documents: Draft 2 and Draft 3. Anyone that has followed the drafting process knows that these drafts are as different as night and day when it comes to DRM.
Furthermore, the intent of the DRM language in v3 was to address the Tivo-ization of GPL’d code and not to extend copyleft into areas beyond the scope GPL’d code. And that is made perfectly clear.
He goes on to suggest a possible scenario under GPLv3:
Can you imagine an IT company that risks having to inform the maker of a $100 million movie that it just gave away the creator’s right to protect the work–solely out of dedication to the open-source community or because of the legal advice offered in a blog post?
Huh? This is lunacy.
From the very document the author himself cites:
1.2 User Products
In our earlier drafts, the requirement to provide encryption keys applied to all acts of conveying object code, as this requirement was part of the general definition of Corresponding Source. Section 6 of Draft 3 now limits the applicability of the technical restrictions provisions to object code conveyed in, with, or specifically for use in a defined class of â??User Products.â?
The potential threat that the author imagines was explicitly struck from the draft rationale.
For instance, if the work is a DVD player and can play certain DVDs, it must be possible for modified versions to play those DVDs.
Whenever I see smart knowledgeable people make statements that are true, but not accurate, I suspect that there is a broader agenda at work. A quick scan of the supporters of “Progress Freedom Foundation’ include NBC Universal, Time Warner, NCTA, and Entertainment Software Assocation, Comcast, ClearChannel and other content-rich entities.
I applaud the author to promote the cause of his supporters and come to their defense, but this is a case where the demons simply do not exist.
UPDATE: John Koenig pointed me to this passage in the draft 3 that states:
The output from running a covered work is covered by this License only if the output, given its content, constitutes a covered work.
Even the most contorted interpretations of this passage would not considered a content produced by applications running on a GPL’d system a covered work.