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

From: Rob Landley
Date: Thu Jun 14 2007 - 18:15:21 EST

On Thursday 14 June 2007 15:28:34 David Schwartz wrote:
> > The GPL applies to "the Program" which in this case is the Linux kernel
> > as a whole and it in fact does indicate a specific version. All code
> > submitted and included in this program has has been submitted with the
> > understanding that the work as a whole is specifically licensed as
> > GPLv2. Some authors have granted additional rights, such as dual BSD/GPL
> > or GPLv2 and later and explicitly added such a notice.
> Since the Linux kernel as a whole does not have a single author, it is
> impossible to license it as a whole. Nobody has the authority to do that.
> (The GPL is not a copyright assignment type license.)

Actually, Linus Torvalds, as maintainer, probably has a compilation copyright.
See "compilations and abridgements" in

> Fortunately, the GPL clears this up:
> "Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the
> Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the
> original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to
> these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further
> restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.
> You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to
> this License."
> Linus cannot impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of
> the rights granted.

If you combine dual licensed code (such as MPL + GPL) with code under only one
of those licenses (MPL only), the resulting derived work cannot be
distributed under the dual license, only under one license. The giant
derived work knows as Linux has only been distributable under exactly one
license (GPLv2, the complete text of which is included in the source tarball
and it's harder to be more explicit than that about which license you mean)
since version 0.12.

By the way, this entire "oh no, we can use it GPLv3 no matter what you say"
line of argument is rude. Linus and most of his lieutenants have explicitly
said "our contributions are GPLv2 only". Linus said this explicitly seven
years ago:

He confirmed and elaborated his position when people first started pestering
about v3:

In James Bottomley's position paper last year, a number of prominent kernel
developers stated their objection and that their contributions were GPLv2

James E.J. Bottomley Mauro Carvalho Chehab
Thomas Gleixner Christoph Hellwig Dave Jones
Greg Kroah-Hartman Tony Luck Andrew Morton
Trond Myklebust David Woodhouse

Let me translate this into simpler terms:

GPLv3: Does not want!

The _reason_ it's rude to go on about it is that several people have chosen to
see this entire debate as an interesting intellectual exercise, "how much
code could a GPLv3 licensed project lift from the Linux kernel". Yet if you
substitute "BSD Licensed" in there, it's easy to recognize how obnoxious the
pestering is, despite much of the code in Linux having come from BSD sources.

You don't take Linux kernel code and stick it into a BSD project, even though
some of it was BSD originally, because Linux (every line of it) is GPLv2. If
you want the code under a different license, you go to a differently licensed
upstream source, such as the original author or the project we adapted it
from. If you're not to lift code from Linux to BSD license it, lifting code
from Linux to GPLv3 it is morally and legally no different.

Linus made his decision, most of his lieutenants explicitly confirmed that
decision. Please admit to yourselves that you're arguing that they should
all change their minds because you don't like their decision, not because
they didn't have the right to make it or that there's some loophole that
invalidates it. What's your argument here, developers who are now
saying "GPLv2" _accidentally_ gave permission to distribute their code under
other licenses? Go ahead and take that to court buddy: you will lose.

If you want to create a GPLv3 fork and can trace back specific files to
authors who are ok with GPLv3, go create your fork. If you want to go work
on Solaris, go do that. (But if you want to transplant Linux code into that
thing, talk to Sun's lawyers first. And IBM's, and Red Hat's, and...)

If you want each and every Linux developer who has ever stated a GPLv2 only
position to either publicly reverse said position or to be ejected from the
project and their code tracked down and removed from the kernel via forensic
analysis (which is the only way the Linux kernel itself could ever go GPLv3),
then do us a favor and shut up.

> When you download a copy of the Linux kernel, you do not receive one
> license because nobody could grant you one license.

Yes you do, you receive GPLv2. It's in the file "LICENSE" at the top level of
the directory. This is the one and only license you receive.

You receive this one license applied to multiple copyrights, but if you're
confusing a copyright with a license I can't help you.

> You receive a logically
> separate license from each original licensor. You receive from Linus only a
> license to his contributions.

A) Look up "compilation copyright".

B) The whole point of the GPL is that the license applies to the entire
derived work, as a whole. You can either distribute the whole thing under
the GPL, or you cannot distribute period. Therefore, you're saying you can
take code that was distributed to you under GPLv2 (and only GPLv2), and
redistribute it under another set of license terms. In the name of GPLv3,
you're trying to weasel around GPLv2. Congratulations, you have achieved

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