January 25, 2006

Linus says no to GPLv3

Author: Joe Barr

Linus Torvalds has weighed in on the debate over the draft of version 3 of the GPL in a post on the Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) this afternoon. Torvalds says that the Linux kernel "in general" has always been covered under version 2 of the GPL, and that that isn't going to change.

Torvalds made the statement on the LKML to clarify the version of the GPL covering the Linux kernel. While many GPLed projects include the clause, "version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version," which would allow anyone to license code under the GPLv3 when it is finalized, the kernel does not. Torvalds wrote:

The Linux kernel has _always_ been under the GPL v2. Nothing else has ever
been valid.

The "version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version"
language in the GPL copying file is not - and has never been - part of the
actual License itself. It's part of the _explanatory_ text that talks
about how to apply the license to your program, and it says that _if_ you
want to accept any later versions of the GPL, you can state so in your
source code.

The Linux kernel has never stated that in general. Some authors have
chosen to use the suggested FSF boilerplate (including the "any later
version" language), but the kernel in general never has.

In other words: the _default_ license strategy is always just the
particular version of the GPL that accompanies a project. If you want to
license a program under _any_ later version of the GPL, you have to state
so explicitly. Linux never did.

So: the extra blurb at the top of the COPYING file in the kernel source
tree was added not to _change_ the license, but to _clarify_ these points
so that there wouldn't be any confusion.

The Linux kernel is under the GPL version 2. Not anything else. Some
individual files are licenceable under v3, but not the kernel in general.

And quite frankly, I don't see that changing. 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.

> If a migration to v3 were to occur, the only potential hairball I see is if
> someone objected on the grounds that they contributed code to a version of the
> kernel Linus had marked as "GPLv2 Only". IANAL.

No. You think "v2 or later" is the default. It's not. The _default_ is to
not allow conversion.

Conversion isn't going to happen.

Linus

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