Re: Dual-Licensing Linux Kernel with GPL V2 and GPL V3

From: Linus Torvalds
Date: Thu Jun 14 2007 - 17:24:57 EST

On Thu, 14 Jun 2007, Alexandre Oliva wrote:
> On Jun 14, 2007, Linus Torvalds <torvalds@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> > - I chose the GPLv2, fully understanding that the Tivo kind of
> > situation is ok.
> Wow, do you remember the date when you first thought of this business
> model?

You know what? I'm intelligent. That's what you call people who see th
consequences of their actions. I didn't see the *details* of what all the
GPLv2 could result in, but yes, I claim that I knew what I was setting
myself up for (in a license way) pretty much from the beginning.

Did it take me by surprise how people actually ended up using Linux? It
sure did. But has the GPLv2 itself ever surprised me? Not really. I read
it back then, and yes, I understood what it meant.

>From the very beginning of Linux, even before I chose the GPLv2 as the
license, the thing I cared about was that source code be freely available.
That was the first license, but more importantly, it was why I started
Linux in the first place - my frustrations with Minix, and my memories of
how painful it was to find an OS that I wanted to use and work with.

(That, btw, was not Minix-only: I actually originally was thinking about
literally buying a commercial Unix for my PC too. The price factor kept me
away from the commercial unixes, and in retrospect I'm obviously very

So my first goal was "source must be available and it must be free (as
in beer)". Which my first copyright license reflects very directly.

What happened a few months into the thing was that some people actually
wanted to make floppy images of Linux available to Linux users groups, but
they didn't want to have to actually *fund* the floppies and their work
themselves, so they wanted to sell them at cost (which the first license
actually didn't allow!).

And I realized that the money angle really wasn't what I ever really cared
about. I cared about availability, but people sure could get paid for
their effort in distributing the thing, as long as the source code
remained open. I didn't want money, I didn't want hardware, I just wanted
the improvements back.

So given that background, which license do you _think_ I should have

And given that background, do you see why the GPLv2 is _still_ better than
the GPLv3? I don't care about the hardware. I'll use it, but it's not what
Linux is all about. Linux is about something much bigger than any
individual device.

And yeah, maybe I'm just better at abstracting things. Maybe I prefer
seeing the big picture, and that the individual devices don't matter. What
matters is the improvement in the *software*, because while each physical
device is a one-off thing, in the long term, it's the *development* that

And the GPLv2 protects that.

It's a bit like evolution: individual organisms matter to *themselves* and
to their immediate neighborhood, but in the end, the individuals will be
gone and forgotten, and what remains is the development.

In those terms, I care about the DNA, and the *process* or recombination
and the bigger picture. Any individual organism? Not so much. It's all
part of a much bigger tapestry, and closed hardware is more like an eunuch
(or a worker bee): it won't pass on its legacy, but it might help the
people who do.

So instead of thinking of Tivo as something "evil", I think of Tivo as the
working bee who will never pass on its genes, but it actually ended up
helping the people who *do* pass on their genes: the kernel (to a small
degree - not so much because of the patches themselves, as the *mindshare*
in the PVR space) and projects like MythTV (again, not so much because of
any patches, but because it helped grow peoples understanding of the
problem space!).

Let's take another example: BitKeeper. The FSF follower people seem to
view BitKeeper as something "evil". To me, BitKeeper was not just a great
tool, but it also ended up being something that showed others how things
*could* be done. And the world - including the open source world - is a
better place for it!

See? In the big picture, individual devices and even projects won't
matter. In a hundred years, I'll be long dead, and nobody will care. But
in a hundred years, I hope that the "live and let live" open source
mentality will still flourish, and maybe "Linux" itself won't live on, but
some of the memories and impact may. And *that* is what matters.

A Tivo? It's just a toy. Who cares? It's not important. But source code
that evolves? THAT can change the world!

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