Calm Reflection

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-02-09 Print this article Print

But he has since softened his tone, saying that he has not yet ruled out using GPL 3 for the kernel. In an interview with eWEEK sister site Linux-Watch, Torvalds said that while it was "quite possible" that the GPL 3 could be used, he added that "on the other hand, theres a purely practical problem with any change of license when you have tens of major copyright holders and hundreds of people who have written some part and thousands who have submitted one-liners and small fixes."
Click here to read about why Linus Torvalds decided to reconsider his initial position that was against using GPL 3.
He also acknowledged that there are benefits to putting the kernel under the GPL 3, such as the uniformity of licensing. Its also not the new Digital Restrictions Management section that he objects to, but rather a new part that "seems to disallow digitally signed binaries (or rather: you can sign the binaries any way you want, but you have to make your private keys available)." If this section is removed, then Torvalds says the kernel might yet be moved to the new GPL, even though, practically speaking, it may be difficult to bring Linux under GPL 3 due to the sheer number of copyright owners. That the discussion process around GPL 3 is already controversial is not unexpected: After all, even Eben Moglen, one of its authors, predicted as much in an interview with eWEEK last August. Moglen, who is the general counsel for the Free Software Foundation and co-author of the draft license along with Richard Stallman, the founder of the FSF, said then that he was very aware of the enormous challenges of the license rewriting task and the huge potential it had for disruption, in-fighting and controversy. Even at that time he acknowledged that while it would be "an enormously disruptive experience, it will also be an enormously creative experience where they realize they are linked together, that they cant pull this apart and that it is too big to fail." Click here to read why GPL supporters expected that the draft would face many challenges. But it is unlikely that Moglen anticipated how disruptive the experience might be, right from the outset, particularly around the Digital Rights Management included in the draft license. Torvalds, in a recent online post, said that he thinks "a lot of people may find that the [GPL 3] anti-DRM measures arent all that wonderful after all. Digital signatures and cryptography arent just bad DRM. They very much are good security too." Torvalds is not the only one to raise concerns about those provisions. Other companies in the community had also expressed unhappiness with regard to the DRM provisions, Moglen told eWEEK, but this was not unexpected as the new license would not satisfy everyone, he said. But some, like Open-Xchanges Kusnetzky, feel that while the current version of the license had been extremely long-lasting and was in use around the globe, "some things needed to be more explicitly stated because of the legal frameworks that currently exist in some countries. My understanding is that the FSF is trying to make the GPL a more workable document that extends the idea of freedom of choice," he said. The Eclipse Foundations Milinkovich agreed, saying that the GPL was definitely due for a refresh, and "we feel that the current effort is justified. Both the good news and the bad news about having a community-based approach is that many different people will be involved. That means that the process may take longer, and were sure there will be moments of emotion. But its justified," he said. There is also agreement that the current DRM provisions need to be improved. Kusnetzky says those provisions need to more clearly worded, and said that he has already spoken to Moglen about this and expressed his desire to have them become even clearer. Next Page: Seeking a consensus.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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