Thursday, December 14, 2006

Linus Torvalds on GPL kernel modules

It's no news that Linus is a very good software programmer. There are other aspects of his character that are admirable. On the Linux mailing list today he stressed on why it is not good on the part of developers or open source zealots to force people to use software only the way developers want.
Responding to a suggestion that a time limit be set ( 12 months was suggested) after which kernel won't be allowed to load non- GPL tagged module, he said users should be allowed to use software the way they want. He tries to make the difference between use and distribution clear.
Software developers can only force people to distribute software the way developers want. How they use it should be left to the individuals.
Linus says, "There's a big difference between "copy" and "use". It's exatcly the same issue whether it's music or code. You can't re-distribute other peoples music (becuase it's _their_ copyright), but they shouldn't put limits on how you personally _use_ it (because it's _your_ life)."
He further makes it clear that he hates the idea of forcing on people the GPL way,
"In other words, you guys know my stance. I'll not fight the combined opinion of other kernel developers, but I sure as hell won't be the first to merge this, and I sure as hell won't have _my_ tree be the one that causes this to happen.
So go get it merged in the Ubuntu, (Open)SuSE and RHEL and Fedora trees first. This is not something where we use my tree as a way to get it to other trees. This is something where the push had better come from the other direction.
Because I think it's stupid. So use somebody else than me to push your political agendas, please."
Well said!
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Anonymous said...

Linus makes a very good point. The GPL governs redistribution, not use. You can download Linux code, and modify it however you want, but you cannot then redistribute your creation without also distributing the source.
Free (as in freedom) software must, at its core, allow free use of the software.
If someone wants to write a new license which restricts use, then go do it. But if you are going to limit user freedom, don't call your creation free software.

osgeek said...

I completely agree with what you said.