At the request of a valued reader I’m going to attempt today to provide a quick and dirty rundown of the key differences between the software license covering Symbian’s new open OS and the GNU General Public License that’s served the Linux community for many years.
Note that much of what follows has been cobbled together from Wikipedia pages, so feel free to enlighten and/or correct in the comments below this post…
- The freedom to run it.
- The freedom to study and adapt it.
- The freedom to redistribute it.
- The freedom to improve it.
It’s important to note that under the GPL authors can still release software commercially — that is, charge for it. But unlike most commercial software the end user is free and clear to modify what they’ve paid for, and even charge for the result should they so desire.
The Symbian Foundation has chosen the Eclipse Public License (EPL) for their opened-up OS.
The EPL is recognized and approved by the Free Software Foundation and is similar to the GPL but not compatible with it. Specifically, code licensed under the GPL supersedes any other license — so if software contains bits with EPL and GPL code, that software must, under the terms of the GPL, be released under the GPL.
The Eclipse Public License contains a patent retaliation clause that has been apparently been dropped from the latest draft of the GPL. This clause gives protection to the software author from users seeking to sue over patent concerns.
Finally, the EPL provides a legal means by which additions to a software project can be licensed, commercially or otherwise, as separate works. Note, however, that the GPL offers pretty much the same thing.
So if you’re wondering why the Symbian Foundation chose the EPL over the GPL, I guess that second point — the patent retaliation clause — would be it.