[lkml]   [2006]   [Sep]   [22]   [last100]   RSS Feed
Views: [wrap][no wrap]   [headers]  [forward] 
Messages in this thread
    SubjectGPLv3 Position Statement
    Although this white paper was discussed amongst the full group of kernel
    developers who participated in the informal poll, as you can expect from
    Linux Kernel Developers, there was a wide crossection of opinion. This
    document is really only for discussion, and represents only the views of
    the people listed as authors (not the full voting pool).



    The Dangers and Problems with GPLv3

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

    15 September 2006

    This document is a position statement on the GNU General Public
    License version 3 (in its current Draft 2 form) and its surrounding
    process issued by some of the Maintainers of the Linux Kernel
    speaking purely in their role as kernel maintainers. In no regard
    should any opinion expressed herein be construed to represent the
    views of any entities employing or being associated with any of the

    1 Linux and GPLv2

    Over the past decade, the Linux Operating System has shown itself to be far
    and away the most successful Open Source operating system in history.
    However, it certainly wasn't the first such open source operating system
    and neither is it currently the only such operating system. We believe that
    the pre-eminent success of Linux owes a great part to the dynamism and
    diversity of its community of contributors, and that one of the catalysts
    for creating and maintaining this community is the development contract as
    expressed by GPLv2.

    Since GPLv2 has served us so well for so long, and since it is the
    foundation of our developer contract which has helped propel Linux to the
    successes it enjoys today, we are extremely reluctant to contemplate
    tampering with that licence except as bug fixes to correct exposed problems
    or updates counter imminent dangers. So far, in the whole history of GPLv2,
    including notable successes both injunctively and at trial, we have not
    found any bugs significant enough to warrant such corrections.

    2 Linux, the Kernel and the Open Source Universe

    Linux Distributions, as the Free Software Foundation (FSF) has often
    observed, don't only contain the kernel; they are composed of a
    distribution of disparate open source components of which the kernel is
    only a part (albeit a significant and indispensable part) which
    collectively make up a useful and usable system. Thus, Linux as installed
    by the end user, is critically dependent on entities, known as
    distributions, who collect all of the necessary components together and
    deliver them in a tested, stable form. The vast proliferation of Open
    Source Licences complicates the job of these distributions and forces them
    to spend time checking and assessing the ramifications of combining
    software packages distributed under different (and often mutually
    incompatible) licences--indeed, sometimes licensing consideration will be
    sufficient to exclude a potential package from a distribution altogether.

    In deference to the critical role of distributions, we regard reducing
    the Open Source licensing profusion as a primary objective. GPLv2 has
    played an important role in moving towards this objective by becoming the
    dominant Licence in the space today, making it possible to put together a
    Linux Distribution from entirely GPLv2 components and thus simplify the
    life of a distributor. Therefore, we believe that any update to GPLv2 must
    be so compelling as to cause all projects currently licensed under it to
    switch as expediently as possible and thus not fragment the currently
    unified GPLv2 licensed ecosystem.

    3 Linux and Freedom

    Another of the planks of Linux's success rests squarely on the breadth and
    diversity of its community of contributors and users, without whom we
    wouldn't have the steady stream of innovation which drives our movement
    forward. However, an essential element of this is the fact that individuals
    with disparate (and sometimes even competing) objectives can still march
    together a considerable distance to their mutual benefit. This synergy of
    effort, while not compromising dissimilar aims, is one of the reasons Linux
    manages to harness the efforts of not only motivated developers but also
    corporate and commercial interests. This in turn is brought about by a
    peculiar freedom enshrined in the developer contract as represented by
    GPLv2, namely the freedom from binding the end use of the project. Without
    this freedom, it would be much more difficult to satisfy the objectives of
    the contributors, since those objectives often have expression in terms of
    the end use to which they wish to put the particular project. Therefore, in
    order to maintain the essential development synergy and consequent
    innovation stream it provides to Linux, we could not countenance any change
    to the GPL which would jeopardise this fundamental freedom.

    4 Pivotal Role of the Free Software Foundation

    We have acknowledged before, projects controlled by the FSF (especially
    gcc, binutils and glibc) are essential components of every shipping Linux
    distribution. However, we also take note of the fact that the FSF operates
    very differently from Linux in that it requires assignment of copyright
    from each and every one of the thousands of contributors to its code
    base. These contributions have been given to the FSF not as a tribute to do
    with as it will but under a solemn trust, as stated in article 9 of GPLv2,
    only to licence the code under versions of the GPL that "... will be
    similar in spirit to the present version". We, like all the individual
    contributors to GNU projects, have taken that trust at face value and
    accorded the FSF a special role in the Open Source Universe because of
    it. It goes without saying that any updates to GPLv2 must be completely in
    accord with the execution of that trust.

    5 GPLv3 and the Process to Date

    The current version (Discussion Draft 2) of GPLv3 on first reading fails
    the necessity test of section 1 on the grounds that there's no substantial
    and identified problem with GPLv2 that it is trying to solve.

    However, a deeper reading reveals several other problems with the
    current FSF draft:

    5.1 DRM Clauses

    Also referred to as the "Tivoisation" clauses.

    While we find the use of DRM by media companies in their attempts to
    reach into user owned devices to control content deeply disturbing, our
    belief in the essential freedoms of section 3 forbids us from ever
    accepting any licence which contains end use restrictions. The existence of
    DRM abuse is no excuse for curtailing freedoms.

    Further, the FSF's attempts at drafting and re-drafting these
    provisions have shown them to be a nasty minefield which keeps ensnaring
    innocent and beneficial uses of encryption and DRM technologies so, on such
    demonstrated pragmatic ground, these clauses are likewise dangerous and
    difficult to get right and should have no place in a well drafted update to

    Finally, we recognise that defining what constitutes DRM abuse is
    essentially political in nature and as such, while we may argue forcefully
    for our political opinions, we may not suborn or coerce others to go along
    with them. Therefore, attempting to write these type of restrictions into
    GPLv3 and then relicense all FSF code under it is tantamount to co-opting
    the work of all prior contributions into the service of the FSF's political
    ends, and thus represents a fundamental violation of the trust outlined in
    section 4.

    5.2 Additional Restrictions Clause

    As we stated in section 2 one of the serious issues in Open Source is too
    many licences. The additional restrictions section in the current draft
    makes GPLv3 a pick and choose soup of possible restrictions which is going
    to be a nightmare for our distributions to sort out legally and get
    right. Thus, it represents a significant and unacceptable retrograde step
    over GPLv2 and its no additional restrictions clause.

    Further, the additional restrictions create the possibility of
    fragmentation of the licensing universes among particular chosen
    restrictions, which then become difficult to combine and distribute
    (because of the need for keeping track of the separate restrictions). Thus,
    we think this potential for fragmentation will completely eliminate the
    needed compulsion to move quickly to a new licence as outlined in section 2

    5.3 Patents Provisions

    As drafted, this currently looks like it would potentially jeopardise the
    entire patent portfolio of a company simply by the act of placing a GPLv3
    licensed programme on their website. Since the Linux software ecosystem
    relies on these type of contributions from companies who have lawyers who
    will take the broadest possible interpretation when assessing liability, we
    find this clause unacceptable because of the chilling effect it will have
    on the necessary corporate input to our innovation stream.

    Further, some companies who also act as current distributors of Linux
    have significant patent portfolios; thus this clause represents another
    barrier to their distributing Linux and as such is unacceptable under
    section 2 because of the critical reliance our ecosystem has on these

    6 Conclusions

    The three key objections noted in section 5 are individually and
    collectively sufficient reason for us to reject the current licence
    proposal. However, we also note that the current draft with each of the
    unacceptable provisions stripped out completely represents at best marginal
    value over the tested and proven GPLv2. Therefore, as far as we are
    concerned (and insofar as we control subsystems of the kernel) we cannot
    foresee any drafts of GPLv3 coming out of the current drafting process that
    would prove acceptable to us as a licence to move the current Linux Kernel

    Further, since the FSF is proposing to shift all of its projects to
    GPLv3 and apply pressure to every other GPL licensed project to move, we
    foresee the release of GPLv3 portends the Balkanisation of the entire Open
    Source Universe upon which we rely. This Balkanisation, which will be
    manifested by distributions being forced to fork various packages in order
    to get consistent licences, has the potential to inflict massive collateral
    damage upon our entire ecosystem and jeopardise the very utility and
    survival of Open Source. Since we can see nothing of sufficient value in
    the current drafts of the GPLv3 to justify this terrible cost, we can only
    assume the FSF is unaware of the current potential for disaster of the
    course on which is has embarked. Therefore, we implore the FSF to
    re-examine the consequences of its actions and to abandon the current GPLv3
    process before it becomes too late.

    To unsubscribe from this list: send the line "unsubscribe linux-kernel" in
    the body of a message to
    More majordomo info at
    Please read the FAQ at

     \ /
      Last update: 2006-09-22 19:31    [W:0.033 / U:3.236 seconds]
    ©2003-2016 Jasper Spaans. hosted at Digital OceanAdvertise on this site