February 15, 2006

FSF and Torvalds miles apart on GPLv3

Author: Joe Barr

According to the report by Gavin Clark in The Register from the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) in San Francisco yesterday, Linus Torvalds has "misread" the draft of version 3 of the GNU Public License (GPL).

As NewsForge first reported last month, Torvalds stated that Linux would not be moving to GPLv3 because of dislike for its anti-DRM requirements, saying "I think it's insane to require people to make their private signing keys available, for example. I wouldn't do it. So I don't think the GPL v3 conversion is going to happen for the kernel, since I personally don't want to convert any of my code."

According to The Register, Richard Fontana of the Software Freedom Law Center, which represents the Free Software Foundation (FSF), says "Linus Torvalds has misread it... We require disclosure of the codes if it's necessary to make the software run."

Given this point of clarification, we asked Torvalds today if he would "feel differently about v3 of the GPL if it were made clear that only keys required to execute the code fall under the requirement for disclosure."

Torvalds replied:

No. And I understand the GPLv3 requirements quite well, thank you. When the FSF says that I mis-understood, they have their heads up their asses.

They have different goals than I do. I think it's perfectly ok to have keys that are required for installation/running. I don't think it has anything to do with source code.

So, while clarification of just when and under what circumstances disclosure of private keys is required under GPLv3 is a good thing, it's not enough to bridge the delta between how Torvalds wants to license his code and the direction of the FSF for the next version of the GPL.


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