Torvalds still no fan of governing license

Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, remains unimpressed with a proposed update to the license that governs the open source operating system and has no plans to adopt it for the Linux kernel.

The Free Software Foundation Inc. (FSF) issued the second draft of the GNU general public license version 3 (GPLv3) late last month. After a period of public debate and feedback on the initial draft, released in January, it was substantially rewritten to tone down and clarify the relationship between free software and digital rights management (DRM) technology.

Following the January release of GPLv3 Draft 1, Torvalds stated publicly that he didn’t expect the Linux kernel, a key component of the operating system, would move to GPLv3, given the limitations of the proposed DRM provisions. His position hasn’t changed after reviewing the new second draft.

“I don’t actually see any real fundamental changes there, and it all seems to boil down to the same meaning in the end,” Torvalds wrote July 28 in an e-mail interview. “The FSF is trying to make some things no longer permissible under the GPLv3 that the GPLv2 left open, and I just happen to think that those things were better off being left open.”

The second draft of GPLv3 doesn’t forbid the implementation of DRM features per se, but instead prohibits third parties from employing technical means to limit users’ abilities to use or modify software covered by the GPL.

Torvalds continues to question the need for GPLv3, which will be the first major revision to the license in 15 years.

“I think the main issue to be resolved is just who wants the GPLv3 in the first place, and I think that will be for each project to decide,” he wrote.

In its current form, Torvalds sees no incentive to move from GPLv2 and adopt GPLv3. “I just don’t see any advantages to the new limitations, and am personally much happier with the older version 2,” he wrote. “I’ll always leave the door open for future input and improvements, but the way things look right now, the new v3 license will not actually impact the kernel, although it probably will affect a number of other projects.”

As for the way the FSF has set about soliciting comments on the drafts of the licenses from interested parties and then incorporating that feedback, Torvalds described himself as “fairly disappointed in the whole process.” Emotions tend to cloud all license discussions which typically render them valueless in terms of focusing on the real issue of writing code, he wrote.

“So I was somewhat negative about the need for a new license in the first place, expecting it to just be a huge opportunity for flamewars on various mailing lists and other discussion forums,” Torvalds wrote. “The fact that I then personally disagree with the direction the FSF is trying to take the GPLv3 doesn’t exactly help.”

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