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SubjectRe: GPL V3 and Linux - Dead Copyright Holders
* Linus Torvalds <> wrote:

> It boils down to this: we wrote the software. That's the only part _I_
> care about, and perhaps (at least to me) more importantly, because
> it's the only part we created, it's the only part that I feel we have
> a moral right to control.

yes, that's how i feel too. Quid pro Quo. But we are in the minority.
The majority of Linux users, and the vast majority of commercial Linux
players doesnt give a rat's a** about giving back a Quid, as a fair
compensation for our Quo.

(i dont see a problem with that by the way - i consider it a basic moral
right to have different moral rules. The moment i'd require others to
share exactly the same morals i'd become just another crusader. But i

what the others see is the black and white letter of the GPL [or just
some free software they can download and install], not a moral situation
with us, which they would have to understand and meet. They are and will
increasingly try to give back as little as they can get away with -
depending on their own moral rules. Some will also try to employ tactics
that we see as "immoral", and they wont see it as immoral, under their
own rules.

(one extreme example for a community with very strong moral rules is the
Sicilian Mafia. They had (and still have) extremely strong inner rules,
and everyone within a given family is loved and is being taken care of
for a lifetime - in the positive sense of the word. Still the external
effect on the rest of society is perverse and disastrous. But i digress

so the only solution is to convert our moral rules to an objective set
of rules, as accurately as possible. This in our society would be the
(neutral) letter of the law, and a copyright license in particular.

after that act of conversion we can only hope for the best that no
detail important to us gets lost in the process. Our (your) initial
approach to that was the GPLv2, and it was a pretty accurate (and lucky)
first approximation.

what do we have today? We've got bin-only kernel modules, much of which
are clearly immoral, they are clearly hurting us and still we do things
to keep them going - e.g. the refusal to remove 8K stacks from the
.config. We are increasingly getting into a situation where loopholes
are found and utilized to give back as little as possible, upsetting the

so i believe _something_ should be done to tip the balance, because the
negative effects are already hurting us. I'd support the move to the
GPLv3 only as a tool to move the balance back into a fairer situation,
not as some new moral mechanism. The GPLv3 might be overboard for that,
but still the situation does exist undeniably.

> I _literally_ feel that we do not - as software developers - have the
> moral right to enforce our rules on hardware manufacturers. [...]

yes, and i do share your morals on that. OTOH i do think there are a
few more aspects:

- most of the known violations of the Quid pro Quo comes from the space
of closed hardware that is pushing for DRM best. So there's some
itching in me to just make things more strict in the area that is
causing us the most problems.

- can they give us the source code for the modifications on Linux on a
DRM-ed medium that we cannot read on any open hardware? From a moral
POV they cannot, but can they do it legally? Could they argue in 5
years that SHD-DVD version 10 is a 'widely used' medium, and that they
met the letter of the GPLv2? If we never enforce that the source be
actually compilable and usable on real hardware, how can we suddenly
claim to have a right to run it on open hardware? We might create a
legal waiver or estoppel situation if we dont enforce the usefulness
of the source code given back to us. Even cockroaches are surprisingly
creative - after all there is a business entity on this planet that
thought it to be fair to produce source code in discovery by printing
it out to a ton of paper and then scanning it back in ;-) And they
even got away with it!

- we really grew up on the supposition that there is a fundamental
ability and right to tinker. Business entitities were simply not able
back then to restrict that, technologically. Today there are business
models that seem to be working just fine with closed hardware. Content
and programmability restrictions via crytography are more and more
practical, and the day will come when the Xbox will be truly
cryptographically safe and totally closed.

NOTE: i do know that the elimination of tinkering is bad for society
down the road - so in theory we should win in the long run. But
society might not care! Maybe only 1 civilization out of a 100 get
past this stage of development - the rest destroy themselves and
create a burned out shell of a planet with some proto-civilization
and no resources left. Nature is really, really cruel.

Do we have the moral right to restrict (in the worst case, eliminate)
our children's ability to tinker _at all_? Doesnt our software become
totally useless if the possibility to tinker gets eliminated? Only
1-5% of all people have the brain structure and desire to tinker (and
to think creatively), so if it were up for a vote today we'd lose in
the polls, badly ...

Dont you think we have the moral obligation to support all the
"infrastructure" that gave us this ideal paradise of tinkering with
Linux in the first place? Dont you sense we (programmers, tinkerers)
are a minority that could _easily_ be opressed by society at large,
without them even noticing? Supporting fact: society is heading
towards a nice big greenhouse effect right now, with 99% of the
scientists crying bloody murder already - and basically nothing is
done. Crushing these 'geek dudes' which would indeed result in lost
productivity a few decades down the line, but right now it wouldnt
even be a blip on the policy radar i'm afraid, as long as it results
in blockbuster movies getting on to the TV screen faster, and as long
as it results in a 5% cheaper HD-DVD player ...

Thinking about those issues and current trends, i'm really getting an
urge to grab some bigger protective gear, like the GPLv3!

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