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FSF Wastes Away Another "High Priority" Project

Free Software

Published on 24 January 2013 10:03 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Free Software
82 Comments

There's a new situation concerning another high-priority Free Software Foundation project and the unwillingness by Richard Stallman and the FSF to cooperate with real-world free software developers.

For those not familiar with the Free Software Foundation's "high priority" projects list, see The Sad State Of FSF's High Priority Projects and Many FSF Priority Projects Still Not Progressing.

Recently there was some notable fallout within the Free Software Foundation camp and now there's a bit more unfortunate news to relay.

One of the FSF's high priority projects has been GNU LibreDWG, a C library for handling DWG files. The DWG file format is the native format for popular CAD software like AutoCAD and IntelliCAD, with the backing of Autodesk, Open Design Alliance, and other industry leaders. The last code commits to LibreDWG were two years ago (January 2011) and there hasn't even been a proper release yet of this "high priority" work, but that's not even the main problem now.

LibreCAD, a popular open-source CAD program that works on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X operating systems, sought to add DWG support via the LibreDWG library. A program finally wants to make use of LibreDWG and it's one of the few well known open-source CAD programs; so it's a win, right? Nope.

LibreCAD is GPLv2 licensed since it came out of code from the QCad Community Edition product from Ribbonsoft. It's bound to GPLv2. LibreDWG meanwhile is GPLv3+, which isn't compatible with GPLv2.

The Free Software Foundation was contacted about making LibreDWG GPLv2+ instead (since the FSF is the copyright holder), but the FSF/Richard Stallman doesn't the DWG library on the earlier version of their own open-source license.

LibreCAD isn't the only one being messed over in this fiasco. FreeCAD, an open-source 3D CAD modeller, is LGPL/GPLv2. FreeCAD uses Open Cascade and Coin3D libraries, both of which are GPLv2, so those programs cannot be re-licensed to GPLv3.

Both LibreCAD and FreeCAD both want to use LibreDWG and have patches available for supporting the DWG file format library, but can't integrate them. The programs have dependencies on the popular GPLv2 license while the Free Software Foundation will only let LibreDWG be licensed for GPLv3 use, not GPLv2.

The only known project actually using LibreDWG is some program called GRASS. Again, Git master on the LibreDWG code hasn't even been touched in two years. There's open-source projects wanting to take advantage of this code that the Free Software Foundation calls a "high priority", but they are unwilling to make a small license change.

This drama surrounding the Free Software Foundation's LibreDWG can be found in this LibreGraphicsWorld blog post. (Thanks to Phoronix reader Jacobo Pantoja for bringing this matter to my attention.)

Making matters worse, "Since I was drawn into a private discussion with Richard [Stallman] about LibreDWG anyway, I specifically asked him, whether FSF was planning to take any actions to ensure that the work on LibreDWG wasn't left unused by free end-user software. That was in in June 2012. After 6 months (I can be very patient, when I have to) and several reminders Richard still hasn’t provided any reply whatsoever. Apparently, the question doesn’t deserve an answer."

Unless the Free Software Foundation becomes more accomodating of these open-source developers -- who should all share a common goal of wanting to expand free/open-source software -- LibreDWG is likely another project that will ultimately waste away and go without seeing any major adoption due to not working with the GPLv2.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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