Linux Hearts GPL Version 2

Torvalds has always been fairly agnostic on license questions, which is why so many different licenses use his kernel at the heart of their operating systems, which in turn is why Linux is such a popular operating system which has now pretty-much unified the Unix development world.

In an online statement Wednesday, Linux creator Linus Torvalds has said that his kernel is licensed under Version 2.0 of the GPL, has always been under Version 2.0, and always will be under Version 2.0.

Torvalds was responding to rampant speculation that open source licenses will have to move to Version 3.0 of the GPL when work on that is completed, and that Version 3.0 might have all sorts of requirements tacked-on it, like a requirement to give government officials access to files through the filing of private encryption keys.

The speculation emerges from comments, where a wide variety of opinions are offered. But the comments are not like the Federalist Papers. They don't define the meaning of final license.

It's the kind of thing we've got to expect.

Linus' personal position in all this is important, because Linux, the kernel, is at the heart of all versions of Linux, the operating system, which in turn is at the heart of all Linux applications.

However (and I think this is his point) the kernel, operating system, and applications may be, and now no doubt will be, offered under different licenses. GPL 3.0 is designed for operating systems and applications, allowing them to compete more closely with BSD-flavored licenses. Conversion of the kernel to GPL 3.0 is not necessary, and he's not going to do it.

Torvalds has always been fairly agnostic on license questions, which is why so many different licenses use his kernel at the heart of their operating systems, which in turn is why Linux is such a popular operating system which has now pretty-much unified the Unix development world.

In the proprietary era Unix was non-competitive with Windows because there were so many technically-incompatible versions of it, all under competing licenses.  With lots of different Linuxes sharing a kernel, which is licensed under GPL 2.0, there can be great variety in licensing while the base stays strong.

Linus' decision also reinforces a basic point for all those concerned about GPL Version 3 and its comment threads. Upgrading is optional.

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