GPL Project Watch List for Week of 03/07

The GPL v3 Watch List is intended to give you a snapshot of the GPLv3/LGPLv3 adoption for March 1st through March 7th, 2008.

March 7th – Birth of the Roman Republic
Our numbers continue to grow as we approach 2000 GPL v3 projects. Last week we broke the milestone of 2000 GPL v3 and LGPL v3 projects combined, so now we are awaiting solely GPL v3 projects to surpass 2000. Currently, our count of GPL v3 projects is at 1893 GPL v3 projects, up 52 new GPL v3 projects since last week. Our LGPL v3 count remains at 176 LGPL v3 projects. We have already seen that the GPL v3 has made its mark on project licenses, but we are now curious to see if it will continue to grow. If adoption continues at this rate, it make start a snowball effect since it will become more convenient to license under GPL v3 for compatibility.

New project conversions this week include:

  • UNIX terminal emulator for GP2X: termula2x is a UNIX terminal emulator for GP2X, including vi text editor. It supports background images.
  • The LPP Project: A multiplayer only FPS involving veichle driving in a futuristic populated living city with a intuitive and user friendly map editor.
  • Oil Worker: Oil Worker is an addictive and challenging arcade puzzle game developed in PyGame. You’ve been contracted by an oil company and your goal is to build a long pipe to carry the oil from the oil well to the refinery

Story of the week
Microsoft Research License Agreement and What it Really Means
This week Microsoft made a Research Development Kit (RDK) for its Singularity OS available to the public. The RDK includes source code, tools and other documentation about the project, all released under the terms of the “Microsoft Research License Agreement” (MSR-LA) and is for “Non-Commercial Academic Use Only.

This is certainly a positive step toward openness from a company whose bread and butter is revenue from closed-source software applications, but is the MSR-LA really an open source license? The license does apply to source code that is available for download, but what can be done with that code once you have it? Consider some of the terms:

1) “You may not use or distribute this Software or any derivative works in any form for commercial purposes.

This is “free as in beer,” not as in free speech.

2) “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary herein, you may only use the tools included in the Software to build the Singularity system, or build applications that will run on Singularity.

This is fairly restrictive and makes it impossible to use any of the available tools, no matter how innovative, for anything but this project.

3) “If you distribute the Software or any derivative works of the Software, you will distribute them under the same terms and conditions as in this license, and you will not grant other rights to the Software or derivative works that are different from those provided by this MSR-LA.

Requiring the same license terms upon distribution is not so unusual, but the inability to grant anything other than the terms of the MSR-LA, even additional terms like those suggested in the GPL, like restricting the use of certain trademarks or offering a warranty on code you create, gives developers no flexibility.

4) Your rights granted by the MSR-LA give you no ability to “subject the Software or derivative works thereof in whole or in part to the terms of any license that requires as a condition of use, modification and/or distribution of software subject to such license that the software or other software combined and/or distributed with such software be (A) disclosed or distributed in source code form; (B) licensed for the purpose of making derivative works; or (C) redistributable at no charge.

This is quite clearly aimed at free software licenses like the GPL and other free and open source licenses that require the distribution of source code and encourage the creation of derivative works. MSR-LA licensed code will not play nicely with most free and/or open source licensed code. The “no charge” provision here is curious given the non-commercial nature of the MSR-LA, but it may be included so that more free and/or open source licenses are not compatible.

5) “…Microsoft is granted back, a non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free, and sub-licensable license to, for any purpose, reproduce, publicly perform or display, install, use, modify, distribute, make and have made, sell and transfer modifications to and/or derivative works of the Software source code or data that you provide to Microsoft through the CodePlex tool or otherwise make directly available to Microsoft.”

So if you contribute something creative back to Microsoft they receive an irrevocable and sub-licensable license to your code for any purpose. At least it’s non-exclusive, but where else would you be able to use it?

6) “…if you sue anyone over patents that you think may apply to or read on the Software or anyone’s use of the Software, this MSR-LA (and your license and rights obtained herein) terminate automatically.”

This interestingly parallels with other licenses such as the GPL, which forbids one from suing based on a claim of patent infringement.

This license is nothing if not accurately named. It is certainly intended to keep all creative work produced under it within the scope of the Singularity research project and also within Microsoft itself. The restriction on the code being “subjected” to the various terms of other licenses effectively isolates the code from being used with seemingly anything outside of this particular project. If the goal is to experiment and do research to develop new techniques and tools, the possibilities here seem unusually limited.


-Kevin Howard


Notable Mention
Palamida actively takes submissions from visitors on updates on new GPL v3/LGPL 3 projects. We are amazed at the number of submissions we have gotten to date, but even more so, we are incredibly grateful to the almost 100 core contributors who have devoted their time and resources at helping us provide up-to-date information.

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