DRM, GPLv3 just 'hot air': Linus Torvalds

Linux creator describes Digital rights management and the General Public License as "no big deal".
Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor and  Chris Duckett, Contributor

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exclusive Digital rights management and the General Public License cause a lot of 'hot air' to be exchanged but they are not a 'big deal', according to the creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds.

DRM is a technology used to control the copying and distribution of content such as music and films while GPLv3 is a software licence drafted by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and intended to be used to govern how free and open source software can be copied and changed.

Linus Torvalds

According to Torvalds, both DRM technology and GPLv3 will cause "lots of arguments" but in the bigger scheme of things, neither will stop good technology from prevailing.

"I suspect -- and I may not be right -- but when it comes to things like DRM or licensing, people get really very excited about them. People have very strong opinions. I have very strong opinions and they happen to be for different reasons than many other people.

"It ends up in a situation where people really like to argue -- and that very much includes me... I expect this to raise a lot of bad blood but at the same time, at the end of the day, I don't think it really matters that much.

"I think it is going to cause a lot of hot air, it's going to cause a lot of hurt feelings, there is going to be a lot of arguments about it. But in practice will it be a big deal? I suspect it is not going to be that big. But time will tell," Torvalds said during an interview at linux.conf.au in Sydney today.

Torvalds admitted he has a particular dislike for DRM technology because it makes life more difficult for users.

"One reason I really dislike DRM is that it is technologically an inferior solution to not doing DRM. It actually makes it harder for people to do what they want to do. It makes it harder to do things that you really should be able to do," said Torvalds.

Although Torvalds admits he is "very much down on DRM", he is tolerant of other people using the technology.

"At the same time, on a completely different tangent -- forget about technology -- I am a big believer in letting people do what they want to do. If somebody wants to do DRM it is their problem. I don't want anything to do with it.

"It is something that sometimes puts me at odds with people in the technical area who have an agenda that they want to drive,' he said.

GPLv3 just another licence
When asked about GPLv3, which is due for release in the first quarter of this year, Torvalds said it was 'interesting' but also not a big deal.

"It is certainly interesting since the GPLv2 has been a defacto standard in the open source free software group for 16 years -- or something like that. It's a long time and in that sense it is a watershed event.

"At the same time, if you look at the number of licenses that people have been using over the years, it is just another licence. It is not that big a deal. It depends on how you look at it," he added.

The current version of the GPL (v2) was published in 1991 and applies to around two thirds of free and open source software.

The best technology will win, eventually
Torvalds believes that despite all the arguments about which technology or software development methodology is better, 'good technology' will win in the end.

"One of the issues I have is that the most important thing is good technology. It's not about being commercial or non-commercial, open source or closed source. To me, the reason I do open source is, it is fun. That is the most basic thing.

"I also happen to believe that it is the best way to, eventually, get the best end result. Part of that is the 'eventually'. At any particular point in time, it may not always be the best thing right then," he said.

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