Upgrade to GPL 3 for Koha 3.4 - Advocacy

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Home > Legal Matters > Copyright > Copyright licenses > Koha copyright license

This page is reserved only for advocacy of GPL 3, invoked with an or later version option, for Koha 3.4 as part of a ballot process on the question of upgrading the Koha copyright license. Please use the Koha GPL 3 option wiki page or the Koha mailing list for open comment.


Upgrade to the GNU General Public License version 3 (GPL 3), invoked with an or later version option, as the copyright license for Koha 3.4 - advocacy

GPL 3 Text

See GNU General Public License version 3 (GPL 3) from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the full text of the license.

Open Draft Comment Period for License

A lengthy open, even if imperfect, comment period for was provided for multiple drafts before the license was finalised by FSF.

GPL 2 with Improvements

Substantially the same copyleft license as GPL 2 is provided by GPL 3 with additional protection for users over issues identified subsequent to the 1991 publication of GPL 2 and greater clarity of language. Yes, the improvements have necessarily made the license text significantly longer.

Greater International Legal Compatibility

Greater international legal compatibility is included in GPL 3 for terminology and aspects of copyright law where there are important differences affecting software.

Changes include the following:

  • The word 'distribute' was changed to 'convey' to avoid confusion in the terminology of some jurisdictions.
  • Moral rights of authors, which are vital to copyright law including software copyright in many jurisdictions, are provided for in section 7(b). See attribution rights for authors below.

Greater Software License Compatibility

Compatibility with a larger set of code from other free software projects which could be used to enhance Koha is available with GPL 3. Compatibility includes GPL 2 code, invoked with an or later version option; code from newer free software projects using GPL 3 or LGPL 3; and greater compatibility with other non-GPL free software licenses. The additional license compatibility for other non-GPL free software licenses is provided by using section 7 options and/or greater patent protection in section 11.

Software under GPL 3, LGPL 3, Apache License 2.0, and a few less common free software licenses could be included as part of Koha under GPL 3 but could not be included if Koha would remain under GPL 2. See the GPL compatible licenses section of the list of licenses described by FSF. See also the statement from the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) on the compatibility of Apache License 2.0 and GPL 3.

Attribution Rights for Authors

Rights of authors can be protected by exercising the option for an author attribution in section 7(b).

Authors are not necessarily copyright holders with rights automatically protected by copyright law for software in all legal jurisdictions. Exercising the option protects the moral rights of authors where required by law and provides that protection where copyright law for software fails to provide it. See international legal compatibility above.

If used, author attributions can help users better identify who contributed what to the code, and contact authors for relevant assistance with understanding how parts of the code work, debugging problems, and developing enhancements to the authors' previous code. Simple statements such as feature X first contributed by author A; extended by authors A and B; with new function Y added by author C with relevant contact information would serve many users better than searching through a git repository.

Greater Patent Protection

Greater protection from aggressive use of patents, controlled by modifiers and conveyors of the software, covering some aspect of the software functionality is included in GPL 3. The greater protection from abuse of patents is contained in section 11 along with a clarification in section 10.

Patents covering software are often patents which include claims granted for supposedly unpatentable mere mathematics or business methodologies embodied in software. Generally, such patent claims would never have been granted under the traditional application of patent law.

Lawsuits over patents covering software plague the US software market. Even if you are in a country which does not allow the patenting of mere mathematics or business methodologies embodied in software, users everywhere suffer if the US market is hurt by the intimidating use of patents covering software.

GPL 3 does not protect against the actions of parties who do not modify or convey copies of the software under GPL 3, however, some protection is better than no protection. Koha should have this protection in addition to Koha's existing advantage of not being the type of target which most patent aggressors tend to pursue.

30 Day Cure Provision Protection from Compliance Mistakes

A 30 day first time cure provision in section 8, allows parties making mistakes in complying with the license to have their license rights automatically restored to protect unintentional violators. Such a provision should be reassuring to those conveying verbatim or modified copies of software under GPL 3.

Advice from the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) suggests a means for a copyright holder to reinstate that first time provision to reassure a party who is believed to have violated the license unintentionally. A copyright holder could send a friendly message to a party violating the license with an offer to help the party understand how to comply with the license. The copyright holder could also extend a reassuring offer to reinstate the 30 day first time cure provision if the party in violation acts in good faith to try to comply.

Aaron Williamson, a lawyer at SFLC, explained that a simple contract from a copyright holder reinstating the 30 day first time cure provision could be sent to a violator believed to be acting in good faith. For the case of the US, Aaron gave an example of a three sentence contract which would suffice and would be upheld even if merely sent by email. Such a contract could be sent repeatedly to a party which is believed to be acting in good faith and in need of repeated help to understand how to comply with the license.

Upgrade Path to AGPL 3

Section 13 allows upgrading the license to AGPL 3 for covering remote netowrk use.

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