Re: GPLv3 Position Statement

From: Linus Torvalds
Date: Wed Sep 27 2006 - 20:19:30 EST

On Wed, 27 Sep 2006, Chase Venters wrote:
> On Wed, 27 Sep 2006, Theodore Tso wrote:
> >
> > This has been made clear to Eben and the FSF, for a long time. The
> > FSF has simply chosen not to listen to Linus and other members of the
> > kernel community. In fact, I've never seen any interest in a
> > dialogue, just a pseudo-dialogue where "input is solicited", and then
> > as near as far as I can tell, at least on the anti-Tivo issue, has
> > been simply ignored. But in any case, it should not have come as a
> > surprise and should not have startled anyone.
> Perhaps I came off too strong, but I meant what I said, and I'm not only
> talking about things being made clear with Eben and the FSF. Frankly, I don't
> know what did or did not happen behind closed doors and it would be wrong of
> me to make assumptions about that.

I think a lot of people may be confused because what they see is

(a) Something that has been brewing for a _loong_ time. There has been
the FSF position, and there has been the open source position, and
the two have been very clearly separated.

At the same time, both camps have been trying to be somewhat polite,
as long as the fact that the split does clearly exist doesn't
actually _matter_.

So, for example, the GPLv2 has been acceptable to all parties (which
is what I argue is its great strength), and practically you've not
actually had to care. In fact, most programmers _still_ probably
don't care. A lot of people use a license not because they "chose"
it, but because they work on a project where somebody else chose the
license for them originally.

This, btw, is probably why some things matter to me more than many
other kernel developers. I'm the only one who really had an actual
choice of licenses. Relatively, very few other people ever had to
even make that choice, and as such, I suspect that a number of people
just feel that it wasn't their choice in the first place and that
they don't care that deeply.

Ted is actually likely one of the very few people who were actually
involved when the choice of GPLv2 happened, and is in the almost
unique situation of probably having an email from me asking if he was
ok with switching from my original license to the GPLv2. Ted?

So we have something that has been going on for more than a decade
(the actual name of "Open Source" happened in 1998, but it wasn't
like the _issues_ with the FSF hadn't been brewing before that too),
but that has mostly been under the surface, because there has been no
_practical_ reason to react to it.

(b) This tension and the standpoints of the two sides has definitely
_not_ been unknown to the people involved. Trust me, the FSF knew
very well that the kernel standpoint on the GPLv2 was that Tivo was
legally in the right, and that it was all ok in that sense.

Now, a number of people didn't necessarily _like_ what Tivo does or
how they did it, but the whole rabid "this must be stopped" thing was
from the FSF side.

> What I was really addressing here is that the whole F/OSS community
> exploded over the news that Linux was not adopting the GPLv3.

Not really. It wasn't even news. The kernel has had the "v2 only" thing
explicitly for more than half a decade, and I have personally tried to
make it very clear that even before that, it never had anything else (ie
it very much _had_ a specific license version, just by including the damn
thing, and the kernel has _never_ had the "v2 or any later" language).

So legally, Linux has generally been v2-only since 1992, and just to head
off any confusion, it's even been very explicit for the last five years.

So what's the "news" really?

I'll tell you what the news is: the FSF was going along, _as_if_ they had
the support of not just their own supporters, but the OSS community too,
even though they knew _full_well_ what the differences were.

In fact, a lot of people have felt that they've been riding of the
coat-tails of Linux - without ever realizing that one of the things that
made Linux and Open Source so successful was exactly the fact that we did
_not_ buy into the rhetoric and the extremism.

Claiming that the FSF didn't know, and that this took them "by surprise"
is just ludicrous. Richard Stallman has very vocally complained about the
Open Source people having "forgotten" what was important, and has talked
about me as if I'm some half-wit who doesn't understand the "real" issue.

In fact, they still do that. Trying to explain the "mis-understanding".

It was _never_ a mis-understanding. And I think the only surprise here was
not how the kernel community felt, but the fact that Richard and Eben had
probably counted on us just not standing up for it.

THAT is the surprise. The fact that we had the _gall_ to tell them that
we didn't agree with them.

The fact that we didn't agree was not a surprise at all.

> I think it's fair to say that the reason why Linux is not adopting GPLv3
> (aside from the very practical matter of gaining the consensus of
> copyright holders) is that Linus and other top copyright holders don't
> think what Tivo is doing is wrong.

Well, I personally believe that Tivo did everything right, but in the
interest of full disclosure, sure, some people even _do_ belive that what
Tivo is doing is wrong, but pretty much everybody agrees that trying to
stop them is _worse_ than the thing it tries to fix.

Because the even _deeper_ rift between the FSF and the whole "Open Source"
community is not over "Tivo" or any particular detail like that, but
between "practical and useful" and "ideology".

And no, it's not a black-and-white issue. There are all kinds of shades of
gray, and "practical" and "ideology" aren't even mutually incompatible!
It's just that sometimes they say different things.

And yes, I personally exploded, but hey, it's been brewing for over a
decade. Let me over-react sometimes. I'm still always right ;)

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