GPL 3 author wants companies like Google to open up internal-use patches
Addressing an audience at the Open Source Business Conference, Free Software Foundation (FSF) lawyer Eben Moglen discussed the upcoming version 3 of the General Public License (GPL 3). Moglen anticipates broad adoption of the license even among open-source projects that do not use the current version of the GPL. Moglen also took the opportunity to nudge Google and encouraged the company to release the source code of open source application improvements used internally.
The GPL does not require companies to release the source code of patches and program modifications that aren’t distributed. In theory, companies like Google have probably made many, many modifications to widely used open source applications without submitting the patches and improvements upstream for the benefit of other users.
Although FSF founder Richard Stallman decided not to force companies like Google to disclose internal-use enhancements with the new version of the GPL, Moglen believes that companies should do so out of obligation to the community. Moglen believes that members of the open-source software community should put pressure on companies and try to convince them to disclose the non-public enhancements they have made to open-source software programs. Although Google is only one of countless companies that enhances open-source software products for internal use, Moglen chose to single out Google because the company’s business model depends so heavily on open-source software.
Although I can understand and appreciate Moglen’s desire to compel companies like Google to help advance the open-source products that they use internally, I think it would be a mistake to exert pressure to an extent that risks alienation. Declining to release patches may seem a bit exploitative, but Google more than compensates for it in many other ways. For instance, Google has invested millions of dollars in open-source software development with its Summer of Code program, which also actively expands the size of the open-source software development community.
Source: Ars Technica