LicensingUp one level
The Free Software Foundation has released a new discussion draft of the GNU General Public License, Version 3.
For the last eighteen years, the GPL has served as the main free software answer to proprietary licensing agreements used by companies like Microsoft.
As the GPL preamble says:
The licenses for most software and other practical works are designed to take away your freedom to share and change the works. By contrast, the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software--to make sure the software is free for all its users.
In contrast, a typical Microsoft Vista EULA says:
The software is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some rights to use the software. Microsoft reserves all other rights. Unless applicable law gives you more rights despite this limitation, you may use the software only as expressly permitted in this agreement. In doing so, you must comply with any technical limitations in the software that only allow you to use it in certain ways.
See the difference in attitude?
Revising the GPL—for the first time in fifteen years—has been a community process. The latest revision involved looking at over 600 comments from the public, plus two international conferences and the work of four dedicated discussion committees. The more people who are involved, the more likely GPLv3 will match the success of GPLv2. You can read about the changes and add your comments at http://gplv3.org/guide.
You can digg the story at http://digg.com/tech_news/Free_Software_Foundation_releases_third_discussion_draft_of_GPLv3.
One question we have been asked is why do we update the client code for Windows Update automatically if the customer did not opt into automatically installing updates without further notice? The answer is simple: any user who chooses to use Windows Update either expected updates to be installed or to at least be notified that updates were available.
Well, if Microsoft understands that a person wants to decide to install their own updates, then they should be respectful of that user's choice and be consistent with their policy. Being consistent means that they should tell the user that an update to Windows Update is available and that if they want it to continue to work properly, that this update should be installed. Maybe the user will decide to stop using Windows Update altogether, or maybe they will install the update. Either way, it should be the user that decides, not Microsoft.
However, this should come as no surprise. There is other evidence that these types of policies apply to other pieces of Microsoft software as well, including Windows Defender. In the End-User License Agreement for Windows Vista it states that after searching your computer for software, if Defender finds any "potentially unwanted software rated 'high' or 'severe,' [it] will automatically be removed after scanning unless you change the default setting." Where "high" and "severe," are undefined terms, and where the default behavior is to delete the software (instead of just quarantining the software and asking the user if they want to delete it). It gets worse. Later on in the same section they warn you that Defender may remove or disable software that is "not potentially unwanted software." In layman's terms, "not potentially unwanted software," is also known as "your software."
At least Microsoft stays consistent with one policy: keep the user confused and unclear on all policies.
Recently it emerged that Microsoft is removing the "kill switch" from Vista.
When you install Vista, Microsoft claims that you consent to being spied upon, through the "Windows Genuine Advantage" system. This system tries to identify instances of copying that Microsoft thinks are illegitimate. This system includes a "kill switch" which allows Microsoft to remotely deactivate your copy of Vista. This deactivation, whether deliberate or by accident -- as has been the case in some 500,000 cases already according to a study last year -- locks you out of your computer, and forces you to contact Microsoft to get access to your files.
While they may have now ostensibly removed the kill switch from Vista, they have not updated the hostile license they say you must agree to in order to use Vista. Vista still restricts your freedom, because freedom at the whim of someone else is not freedom.
Vista still enforces Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) -- technologies that companies like Disney, Warner, Netflix, Universal, Apple, Sony, Amazon, Fox and Microsoft are trying to impose on us all in order to have control over how our computers are used.
The public backlash that led to the kill switch in Vista being "removed" is a sign that people want software freedom. Today, Microsoft cannot offer people what they want. Thankfully, all is not lost -- free software distributions of the GNU/Linux operating system offer that freedom today. One lesson we should all take from this is that if we speak loudly enough, and demand software freedom, it can have results. But we also shouldn't be fooled -- Microsoft has just hidden the kill switch behind its back, still claiming the authority to use it. More pressure is still needed, and the only thing that will work in the end is for Microsoft to release their software under a license that respects the freedom of computer users.