Linux Creator Calls GPLv3 'Crusade'

In his latest protest against the new version of the General Public License, Linux creator Linus Torvalds wrote, "We do not--as software developers--have the moral right to enforce our rules on hardware manufacturers. We are not crusaders."

K.C. Jones, Contributor

February 8, 2006

2 Min Read

Linux creator Linux Torvalds is continuing to distance himself from the philosophy behind the GNU General Public License (GPL) as it undergoes a second revision.

A draft of the latest version of the GNU GPL, called GPLv3, was released in January. The license, which is administered by the Free Software Foundation, was revised one other time, 15 years ago. Linux is licensed via the GPL.

While Torvalds said in a recent Web posting on a Linux kernel discussion board that he's not arguing against GPLv3 altogether, he used harsh enough words last week to create a stir and prompt online discussions about whether GPLv3 will have the broad support that earlier versions enjoyed.

This marks the second time Torvalds has gained attention for stating his views on the revision.

"I'm arguing that GPLv3 is wrong for me, and it's not the license I ever chose," he wrote.

But that was after putting his reasons in much harsher tones.

"I literally feel that we do not -- as software developers -- have the moral right to enforce our rules on hardware manufacturers," he wrote. "We are not crusaders, trying to force people to bow to our superior God. We are trying to show others that cooperation and openness works better."

Torvalds said the first version reflects that attitude, but he has criticized the direction that the revision process is taking.

Specifically, he objects to a proposal requiring users to make previously private keys available.

The process is being led by Richard Stallman, who wrote GNU, established the Free Software Foundation, and devotes much of his energy to fighting for free software. Neither Stallman nor the foundation have mentioned Torvald's criticisms, but the foundation's counsel, Eben Moglen reportedly told a reporter at The Register this week that he will address the most controversial aspects of the license.

So far, that appears to be publicizing previously private keys and addressing Digital Rights Management (DRM), which Stallman refers to as "Digital Restrictions Management."

The plans for revision are aimed at ensuring free revisions and distribution of software under increasingly stringent laws worldwide.

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