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Jeremy Allison: Samba team to adopt GPLv3

Jack Loftus, News Writer
A letter from Samba contributor Jeremy Allison confirmed today that the Samba Team has decided to adopt the GPLv3 and LGPLv3 licenses for all future releases of Samba.

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The GPLv3 is the updated version of the GPLv2 license under which Samba is currently distributed. Over the course of the past year the Freedom Software Foundation (FSF) has held an open vetting process with its members and members of the open source software community at large to update the license. Areas of focus, according to GPL inventor Richard Stallman, include compatibility with other licenses and to make it easier to adopt internationally.

When contacted by SearchEnterpriseLinux.com, Samba project release manager Jerry Carter said the differences between the GPLv2 and GPLv3 will primarily be of interest to people developing Samba and/or redistributing Samba. "End users of Samba, whether they received packages from a vendor or downloaded the source directly from samba.org, should be able to proceed with business as usual," he said.

Mind your Samba release numbers

"To allow people to distinguish which Samba version is released with the new GPLv3 license, we are updating our next version release number," Allison said.

The next planned version Samba release was to be 3.0.26, but this will now be renumbered so the GPLv3 version release will be 3.2.0 instead. To be clear, all versions of Samba numbered 3.2 and later will be under the GPLv3; and all versions of Samba numbered 3.0.x and before remain under the GPLv2.

New code contributions will be accepted in exactly the same way as before, Allison said. "As Samba has always accepted code with the 'or (at your option) any later version' of the GPL, contributors do not need to change anything about their submissions," he said.

As with previous major version changes, the Samba team will continue to provide security fixes for 3.0.25b releases for as long as this code base is widely used. All new features will only be developed for the new 3.2.x or later GPLv3 versions, however.

GPLv2 vs. GPLv3

The Samba Team currently releases libraries under two licenses: the GPLv3 and the LGPLv3. According to members of the Samba team, if a contributor's code is released under a "GPLv2 or later" license, it is compatible with both the GPLv3 and the LGPLv3 licensed Samba code. However, if your code is released under a "GPLv2 only" license, it is not compatible with the Samba libraries released under the GPLv3 or LGPLv3 as the wording of the "GPLv2 only" license prevents mixing with other licenses.

"If you wish to use libraries released under the LGPLv3 with your 'GPLv2 only' code, then you will need to modify the license on your code," Allison said.

Software patent covenants

Patent covenant deals done after March 28, 2007, are explicitly incompatible with the license if they are "discriminatory" under section 11 of the GPLv3. Samba distributors that have made such patent covenant agreements after that date will not have the right to distribute any version of Samba covered by the GPLv3 (Samba 3.2 or later) license. The rights of vendors to ship 3.0.25b and previous versions is unchanged and remains as it was under the GPLv2 license. Consult legal advice if you are in doubt.

This particular passage in the GPLv3 was made specifically by the FSF to target deals similar to the one struck by Miscrosft and Novell Inc. in November 2006. As part of that deal, Microsoft offers sales support for Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES). The two companies also have announced plans to simplify running Windows and SUSE Linux in mixed operating system environments.


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