There was an interesting announcement  from Eduardo Lima  of the Canola  project in his speech in Mozilla Maemo Danish Weekend yesterday in Brazil. The Canola project announced that they are going to license their project with additional permissions to GPLv3 in order to provide their code “in different kinds of business models and product offerings, especially in CE devices.” This is the first times that this particular permission is being used. The GPLv3 license is an important one and developers should be aware of the facts and motivations in this particular case.
What is the Canola project?
Canola is a media center like application for tablets. Canola was born as a finger oriented, portable media center that could allow consumers to play all of their media, both local and from the network. The main goal of the project is to provide an easy to user interface for Linux systems. Their work is used in tablets offered by companies like Nokia.
Why are they choosing the GPLv3 plus this additional permission?
According to the project, “We believe this additional permission enables wider use of Canola2 in different kinds of business models and product offerings, especially in CE devices. This additional permission combines the best parts of GPLv2 and GPLv3 experiences. We encourage other projects to consider use of this additional permission if they have similar needs.”
What is the specific permission language?
“The copyright holders grant you an additional permission under Section 7 of the GNU General Public License, version 3, exempting you from the requirement in Section 6 of the GNU General Public License, version 3, to accompany Corresponding Source with Installation Information for the Program or any work based on the Program. You are still required to comply with all other Section 6 requirements to provide Corresponding Source.”
What does this permission mean?
Basically it means what it says. It relieves the licensee from the obligation that it would otherwise have under section 6 of GPLv3 to include installation information along with corresponding source for the program in question or any work based on that program.
Is this permission compatible with GPLv3?
Yes. Section 7 of GPLv3 allows copyright holders to issue additional permissions and the experts that we have contacted tell us that this additional permission is compliant with section 7, and has been written according to the requirements of GPLv3.
Who else might use this permission language?
Developers who would like their code to be used in systems where the particular producer of those devices or systems might not use the software at all if it was required to provide installation information along with the source code.
Is that a good thing?
Some people favor the ability to provide additional permissions to GPLv3 and others do not. However, the drafters of the GPLv3 decided that it was appropriate to provide the freedom to include exceptions by including section 7 for this purpose.
Have other people looked at this language?
Members of the Linux Foundation have looked at this language and deem it to be legally acceptable and appropriate for this particular use.
What do they think about its substance?
The foundation and its members all believe that licensing choice is ultimately up to the developers and owners of a project. We are concerned, however, with whether the language of popular licenses is legally clear, and also with the fact that having too many licenses and license variations can become confusing.
Regardless of where you come down on the debate as to whether these permissions should be granted, it is clear that this language is effective and that its consistent use will be helpful for those projects and developers that DO wish to provide a similar exception to the GPLv3.