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

From: Rob Landley
Date: Fri Jun 15 2007 - 23:23:16 EST

On Friday 15 June 2007 14:15:58 Linus Torvalds wrote:
> On Fri, 15 Jun 2007, Carlo Wood wrote:
> > The point is: can you, or can't you (legally) relicense the whole kernel
> > tree under the GPLv3 (or GPLv2+GPLv3)?
> No. My special rights do not actually give me those kinds of powers,
> exactly because I'm bound by my _other_ agreement (namely the GPLv2) to
> follow the license of the code that other people have sent me.
> > At first I thought that you cannot, because too many (significant)
> > contributors have been involved (and you will never get signatures from
> > them all). Then someone surprised me by claiming that the original author
> > had copyright for everything - even files added by others.
> Both are true facts, but the "copyright for everything" is a *separate*
> kind of copyright, which does not include the right to relicense. It's
> literally the "copyright in the collective".
> For examples of the US rules, see USC 17.2.201(c) ("Ownership of
> copyright" and " Contributions to Collective Works"), which spells out
> some limited special rights that I have (namely the right to reproduce and
> distribute).

There are some really interesting bits in Chapter 1 too...

> entirely sure about certain special cases. In particular, if somebody
> tried to _revoke_ the rights to their code under the GPLv2,

There's no revocation clause in the license. They can't. (SCO would have
tried to revoke Caldera's license to its contributions it if it were at all

> I suspect that
> my rights in the collective would protect me from that and allow me to
> still distribute the code in question, since _those_ rights cannot be
> revoked, and they are _mine_).

Title 17 chapter 1 section 103(a) seems to lean against this. I think it says
that having rights to the collective is conditional on having had the rights
to the components of that collective.

> So only in the case of some really obscure and unclear situations, I _may_
> have more rights than some other people, but trust me, but that is damn
> murky, and you'd better have a good lawyer state it, not just a programmer
> who has talked to too many lawyers..

Entirely agreed. :)

"One of my most productive days was throwing away 1000 lines of code."
- Ken Thompson.
To unsubscribe from this list: send the line "unsubscribe linux-kernel" in
the body of a message to majordomo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
More majordomo info at
Please read the FAQ at