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Forget about Linux going GPLv3


MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF. — If anyone out there still thinks that the main Linux kernel might change to the GNU GPLv3 (GNU General Public License Version 3) anytime soon, you can forget about it.

At the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit at the Googleplex, five of the leading Linux kernel developers said that they couldn’t see anything like a good enough reason to switch to the forthcoming free software license.

Like Linus Torvalds, Linux’s founder and guiding light, the developers still dislike the GPLv3. During a panel on kernel development, when asked about the new GPLv3, due out on June 29, Greg Kroah-Hartman said that he had not changed his opinion that he thinks the “GPLv3 is bad.”

To justify switching Linux to the GPLv3 it “would have to be significantly better, and it’s not, said Kroah-Hartman. Ted T’so added that, “pragmatically speaking, it’s too much trouble for not enough advantage.”

T’so continued, “I think [the latest draft is] much better. I may use it in my userspace community programs. The Free Software Foundation did listen. This version is much better. Props to Eben Moglen and company for making it better, but it still has problems and it’s not that much better than the GPLv2. Moving the current Linux kernel would take at least six months of arguing and work and it’s just not worth it.”

James E.J. Bottomley, CTO of Steeleye and Linux kernel developer, gave a “Tip of the hat to the FSF, they listened to our complaints about the license,” but still he doesn’t see it changed enough. What he did like, was that the latest version is much more friendly to other licenses, such as the Apache license.

Looking ahead, Bottomley sees “The universe will be GPLv2 and GPLv3. The kernel will be GPLv2, the tool-chain (the FSF-created development tools) will be GPLv3.” What we won’t see, though, all the developers agreed, is a dual-licensed Linux kernel.

While some components will have dual licenses — some are already dual-licensed under BSD and GPLv2 — it would be impossible to dual-license the entire core. As Bottomley also observed, “the problem is, you can have programs in the kernel that are under v2 or v3 and that’s OK. but you can’t have programs that are V3 only or you can’t use them within the kernel.”

Still, while this could continue as a hot debate between GPLv3 supporters and the GPLv2 loyalists of the Linux kernel developers, Dan Frye, IBM’s VP of open systems development, spoke for many when he said that people should just “chill about v2 and v3.” From his viewpoint, issues of power management in Linux and the like are far more important to Linux’s future than any further debate over the two licenses.

For the Linux kernel, for now, the GPL v2 vs. v3 debate appears to be over.

A version of this story first appeared in Linux-Watch.

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