Torvalds Changes How Code Can Be Contributed to Linux

In a move against claims and worries that proprietary code might make its way into Linux, Linus Torvalds is changing how programmers can contribute code to the Linux kernel.

Linus Torvalds and Linux 2.6 kernel maintainer Andrew Morton have announced a new way of tracking contributions to Linux: the Developers Certificate of Origin.

/zimages/2/28571.gifA think tank claims Torvalds didnt write Linux. Click here to find out why.

Under the new kernel submission process, contributions to the Linux kernel may only be made by individuals who acknowledge their right to make the contribution under an appropriate open-source license. This acknowledgment, the DCO, is used to track contributions and contributors to Linux. The DCO ensures that appropriate attribution is given to developers of original contributions and derivative works, as well to those contributors who receive submissions and pass them, unchanged, up the kernel tree. All contributors are called upon to "sign off" on a submission before it can be considered for inclusion in the kernel.

The Open Source Development Labs, a consortium dedicated to accelerating the adoption of Linux in the enterprise, and which employs both leaders of Linux, announced its support for these enhancements to the Linux kernel submission process. The point of this move is to improve the accurate tracking of contributions to the kernel and ensure developers receive credit for their contributions. Torvalds and Morton said they adopted the revised process only after obtaining input and broad support from key kernel subsystem maintainers and others in the open-source community.

In a statement, Torvalds said: "This process improvement makes Linux even stronger. Weve always had transparency, peer review, pride and personal responsibility behind our open source development method. With the DCO, were trying to document the process. We want to make it simpler to link submitted code to its contributors. Its like signing your own work."

This move is being made in part to combat claims from The SCO Group Inc. that Linux contains code from what it claims is its proprietary Unix intellectual property. "The Linux development process has worked well for more than 10 years but with its success has come new challenges," said Stuart Cohen, CEO of OSDL in a prepared statement. "The measure we announce today goes a long way toward eliminating doubt surrounding the origin of Linux code, and does so without placing any undue burden on the development community."

In addition, this move addresses concerns that stolen proprietary code from Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. or some other company might somehow make its way into Linux.

Next page: Concerns over proprietary code in Linux.