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Torvalds says no to new open-source licence

'Trying to keep Linux commercially viable'

The digital rights management provisions proposed for GPL v3, the new version of the GNU General Public License used by many open-source projects, have earned a thumbs down from Linux kernel developer Linus Torvalds. In a posting to the Linux kernel mailing list made late on Wednesday, Torvalds said he did not expect the kernel – a key component of the Linux OS (operating system) – to adopt the new licence.

The GPL is used by a large number of open-source projects, including the Samba file and print software and the MySQL database. The new draft version of the licence, its first revision in 15 years, has been promoted as a way to improve protection for users and developers from some of the dangers posed by software patents and DRM (digital rights management) systems. And while the licence received generally favourable reviews following its unveiling last week, Torvalds' public criticism is a blow to its author, the FSF (Free Software Foundation).

The Linux kernel is currently unlikely to adopt GPLv3 because its proposed DRM provisions are too burdensome, Torvalds said in his newsgroup posting. "I think it's insane to require people to make their private signing keys available, for example. I wouldn't do it," he wrote. "So I don't think the GPL v3 conversion is going to happen for the kernel."

Torvalds' post appears to indicate that he believes the DRM provisions will hurt Linux adoption, said Karen Copenhaver, general counsel with intellectual property management vendor Black Duck Software. "Linus has a different agenda to the FSF," she said. "He's trying to keep Linux commercially viable."

GPL v3's provision prevents GPL-licensed software from being used in DRM copy-protection software, called "digital restrictions management" software by the FSF.

One of the authors of the GPL v3 draft, FSF board member Eben Moglen, said yesterday that he planned to wait a day before discussing Torvalds' comments. "I've been around too long to think that what people say on mailing lists represents the whole of what they think," he said. "I do not think I know the substance of what Linus had to say there and that's part of why I don't want to comment.

"I think there are going to be a lot more comments later on and I think my job in this process is to hear everybody respectfully and help views get clarified."

Moglen said he had not directly discussed GPL v3 with Torvalds, and declined to elaborate on how the FSF planned to discuss the matter with Torvalds.

Torvalds did not respond to a request to comment for this story.

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