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The DRM Debate

Perhaps the most controversial change to the GPL comes from section 3, which addresses Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), known elsewhere as Digital Rights Management. This section of the revised GPL extends some of the four freedoms to all data manipulated by the program. Code licensed under the new GPL cannot be used to restrict the user’s freedom to copy, modify, or share copyrighted works, or to invade the user’s privacy. As with previous versions of the GPL, this stricture limits what you can do with GPL’d code in the name of ensuring the end-user’s freedoms.

This is an interesting direction for the GPL to take, in that for the first time the GPL restricts what you can do with the software. This restriction appears to contravene Freedom 0 of the Free Software Definition, "The freedom to run the program, for any purpose." Apparently the authors of the new license felt that the user’s freedoms were better protected by limiting those of the developers.

Note that this section doesn’t advocate piracy; copyrighted material is still subject to legal protections, irrespective of whether there are additional technical hurdles to distribution.

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