Volume 3, Number 5 -- February 7, 2006

Linus Nixes GPL v3 for Linux, Sun Ponders It for Solaris

Published: February 7, 2006

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

As we reported in The Linux Beacon two weeks ago, the first draft of Version 3 of the GNU General Public License is out there for public comment, and interestingly, Linux creator, Linus Torvalds, says that he has no plans to move the Linux kernel from GPL v2 to GPL v3 and Sun Microsystems president and chief operating officer, Jonathan Schwartz, says that Sun is pondering the possibility of distributing Solaris and other software under GPL v3.

Torvalds weighed in on the GPL v3 license proposed by the Free Software Foundation's Richard Stallman--the father of open source software--and Eben Moglen--the FSF's general counsel in an e-mail posting on the Linux Kernel Mailing List, and he pulled no punches. When someone suggested that the Linux kernel was released under GPL v1 back in 1991 and automatically moved to GPL v2, Torvalds said that this was not the case, that the Linux kernel was never on GPL v1 and did not automatically move to GPL v2 way back when.

"The Linux kernel is under the GPL version 2. Not anything else," Torvalds explained. "Some individual files are licensable under v3, but not the kernel in general. And quite frankly, I don't see that changing. I think it's insane to require people to make their private signing keys available, for example. I wouldn't do it. So I don't think the GPL v3 conversion is going to happen for the kernel, since I personally don't want to convert any of my code. You think v2 or later is the default. It's not. The _default_ is to not allow conversion. Conversion isn't going to happen."

So, I guess that ends that, at least as far as the Linux kernel goes.

Ironically, after having created the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) last year because of issues it had with the GPL v2 license, Sun says it is examining the possibility of putting out Solaris and potentially the entire Solaris Enterprise System--Solaris plus the entire Sun middleware and development tool stack--under a dual licensing model, using both CDDL and GPL v3.

"It's early days, but we're looking at two things as we make that decision," explained Schwartz. "First, we're looking at how to reach developers and customers who prefer the GPL--as a large GPL contributor, we want to do what we can to drive more efficiency and cross-pollination between Linux and OpenSolaris. (Why recreate the wheel with technologies like dTrace and ZFS--or GRUB and Xen.) Second, bear in mind we've yet to pick the open source license under which the core intellectual property behind our multi-threaded Niagara systems will ship (although we're biasing to GPL). Is there opportunity for the two communities (OS and system) to interact? Surely . . . . "

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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik, Kevin Vandever,
Shannon O'Donnell, Victor Rozek, Hesh Wiener, Alex Woodie
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