Linus and the GPLv3 - the saga continues

  • July 17, 2007
  • Avatar for peter

Now that the GPLv3 has been finalised and is now released (and we're starting to see projects adopting it), many of us in the free software community have been wondering what Linus Torvalds' stance is on the final version.

There has been controversy surrounding Linus' views on the new version of the licence and considerable speculation as to whether he would consider moving the kernel to GPLv3.

Linus particularly has quite strong feelings about the anti-Tivoisation clause in the GPLv3 which prevents embedded device manufacturers from limiting their devices from running modified versions of GPL-covered software.

No. The anti-DRM language is still there, and no, it was never a
misunderstanding. Now it's been limited to "consumer devices" (after I
pointed out some of the _obvious_ problems with the original language),
and the only people who called anything a "misunderstanding" were the ones
that tried to point to *other* points in the license altogether (ie there
was also a "drm section", which didn't really seem to say anything much at

Rms calls it "tivoization", but that's a word he has made up, and a term I
find offensive, so I don't choose to use it. It's offensive because Tivo
never did anything wrong, and the FSF even acknowledged that. The fact
that they do their hardware and have some DRM issues with the content
producers and thus want to protect the integrity of that hardware.

The kernel license covers the *kernel*. It does not cover boot loaders and
hardware, and as far as I'm concerned, people who make their own hardware
can design them any which way they want. Whether that means "booting only
a specific kernel" or "sharks with lasers", I don't care.

It is all quite complex and ultimately just boils down to the age-old issue of idealism (as shown by Stallman and the FSF) versus the pragmatism of Linus and many of the kernel developers.

It's always difficult when you have such a diverse set of opinions within the free software community and inevitably because of the strong opinions on both sides people will disagree. Ultimately, it's an issue that is unlikely to go away.

Still it isn't all that clear what the final decision on the kernel licensing will be and it looks like for now the kernel will remain GPLv2 only.

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold

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