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Linux Won't Move to GPL 3

The father of Linux and copyright holder of the Linux name is not in favor of the GPL 3.

Linus Torvalds has publicly posted his thoughts to the Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) about the update to the GPL license, under which the Linux kernel itself is licensed.

His opposition to the new license may prove to be the death knell for widespread acceptance of the GPL 3, as the Linux kernel is arguably among the most well known and widely used GPL-licensed applications in existence.

Version 2 of the GPL doesn't specifically require that a licensed application automatically update itself when a new version becomes available. Torvalds took aim at a commonly held notion that GPL version 2 can at the licensee's option also be licensed under "any later version" of the license.

"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," Torvalds wrote.

"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.

"If you want to license a program under any later version of the GPL, you have to state so explicitly. Linux never did."

GPL version 3 includes numerous new provisions, including those that improve license compatibility and those that protect against patent and digital rights management technologies.

In particular Torvalds does not agree with at least one proposed provision of the new license. Section 6 of the proposed GPL version 3 is titled, "Non-Source Distribution."

In that section there is a graph that reads, "Distribution of the Corresponding Source in accord with this section must be in a format that is publicly documented, unencumbered by patents, and must require no special password or key for unpacking, reading or copying."

Torvalds responded: "I think it's insane to require people to make their private signing keys available, for example. I wouldn't do it," Torvalds wrote. "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. Conversion isn't going to happen."

Torvalds's statements contradict the generally favorable comments from others in the open source community about GPL version 3.

The leader of the Debian GNU/Linux distribution has a mostly favorable view of the new license as do Novell, IBM and others.