The Torvalds Transcript: Why I 'Absolutely Love' GPL Version 2

On March 6,
Linus Torvalds responded to e-mail questions on GPL version 3 sent by InformationWeek editor at large Charles Babcock.
InformationWeek: Can you comment on why you oppose moving the
Linux kernel from GPL 2.0 to GPL 3.0?

Torvalds: First off, I don't even know what the GPLv3 will look like. I would be totally crazy to accept a license for my code sight unseen. I think people who just say "version 2 or any later version" on their code probably don't care about the license of their code enough. Before I say that "yes, you can use my code under license X," I'd better know *what* that license is.

So that's an issue totally independent of any particular GPLv3 details. The reason Linux has that "GPLv2 only" language is exactly that I simply don't want to be at the mercy of somebody else when it comes to something as important as the license I choose for my code.

So I can't even imagine why anybody would ever expect me to do anything but "v2 only." It's just stupid to do anything else.

Now, totally independently of that, I'm doubly happy that I long, long since made that decision because at least the drafts of the GPLv3 have been much worse than the GPLv2 is. They've had glaring technical problems (license proliferation with not just one single GPLv3, but "GPLv3 with various additional rights and various additional restrictions"), and while I certainly hope that the final GPLv3 won't have those obvious problems, I've been singularly unimpressed with the drafts.

Finally, the real basic issue is that I think the Free Software Foundation simply doesn't have goals that I can personally sign up to. For example, the FSF considers proprietary software to be something evil and immoral.
Me, I just don't care about proprietary software. It's not "evil" or "immoral," it just doesn't matter. I think that Open Source can do better, and I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is by working on Open Source, but it's not a crusade -- it's just a superior way of working together and generating code.

It's superior because it's a lot more fun and because it makes cooperation much easier (no silly NDA's or artificial barriers to innovation like in a proprietary setting), and I think Open Source is the right thing to do the same way I believe science is better than alchemy. Like science, Open Source allows people to build on a solid base of previous knowledge, without some silly hiding.

But I don't think you need to think that alchemy is "evil." It's just pointless because you can obviously never do as well in a closed environment as you can with open scientific methods.

So the FSF and I really don't agree on some very fundamental things. I absolutely love the GPLv2 -- because it embodies that "develop in the open" model. So with the GPLv2, we had a thing where everybody could come around it, and share in that model.

But the FSF seems to want to change the model, and the GPLv3 drafts have not been about developing code in the open, they've been about what you can do with that code. To go back to the science example, it's like saying that not only should the science be peer-reviewed and open, but you also add the requirement that you cannot use it to build a bomb.

And that's just stupid and not a direction I want to follow in. I don't want to limit what people can do with my code. I just want their improvements back. But if they do something stupid with it, that's their choice.

Now, I certainly hope that the final GPLv3 will simply not have those kinds of restrictions, so I'm not totally against it. But to re-iterate:

-- I'm against "blind trust." I will not sign on to a GPLv3 until I see what I'm signing up for.

No comments: