Torvalds Says No to Digital Rights Management License

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The digital rights management provisions proposed for the new version of the GNU General Public License (GPL v3) 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 this week, Torvalds said that he did not expect the kernel--a key component of the Linux operating system--to adopt the new license.

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 license--its first revision in 15 years--has been promoted as a way to better protect users and developers from some of the dangers posed by software patents and digital rights management systems. And while the license received generally favorable reviews following its unveiling last week, Torvalds's public criticism is a blow to its author, the Free Software Foundation.

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

The Linux kernel is currently unlikely to adopt GPL v3 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."

Response

Torvalds's post appears to indicate that he believes that 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 than the FSF," she said. "He's trying to keep Linux commercially viable."

One of the authors of the GPL v3 draft, FSF board member Eben Moglen, said today that he planned to wait a day before discussing Torvalds's 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," he added.

Moglen said he had not directly discussed GPL v3 with Torvalds and he 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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