The company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system, Canonical, has changed the licensing terms of Ubuntu to comply with the GNU General Public License and other free software licences.
This week, Canonical added a “trump clause” that says that when Canonical’s license contradicts the widely accepted “copyleft” license GPL, GPL shall prevail.
Activist groups, including the Free Software Foundation and the Software Freedom Conservancy have been in discussion with Canonical for nearly two years, trying to get Canonical’s policy to unequivocally comply with the generally accepted GNU GPL software license.
Most of you by now have probably seen Conservancy's and FSF's statements regarding the today's update to Canonical, Ltd.'s Ubuntu IP Policy. I have a few personal comments, speaking only for myself, that I want to add that don't appear in the FSF's nor Conservancy's analysis. (I wrote nearly all of Conservancy's analysis and did some editing on FSF's analysis, but the statements here I add are my personal opinions and don't necessarily reflect the views of the FSF nor Conservancy, notwithstanding that I have affiliations with both orgs.)
In the world of FOSS, a small change to a license can be a big deal. For users of proprietary software, changes in the EULA are hardly even registered. Those users click "Ok" and forget about it in the blink of an eye. They have accepted that they are severely limited as far as their rights to alter or redistribute the software is concerned.
But for users of free software, such as Linux or any of the hundreds of packages that make up a modern operating system, a license change has the potential to change their rights dramatically. So, these events are usually the cause of controversy.
Finally, after months of waiting, the second Ubuntu Phone is upon us. The original – the BQ Aquaris 4.5 – was a serviceable phone but the poor specs and extremely early version of Ubuntu that accompanied it made it seem a lot more like an early development phone than something you’d use on a day-to-day basis. The low specs and shaky interface made it undesirable enough that our review for it was somewhat less than positive. Put simply, the hardware needed to be better, and the operating system itself needed much more love from the community and social media companies.