Issues with how the GNU GPL is used for Linux (the kernel)

simo simo.sorce at
Wed Feb 1 15:51:56 UTC 2006

On Wed, 2006-02-01 at 16:44 +0100, Jan Braunisch wrote:
> > > If the code is Free Software under the GPL, may I only use GPL v2 as
> > > Linus says or am i allowed to use any version of the GPL if i want to
> > > redistribute it, according to "If the Program does not specify a version
> > > number of this License, you may choose any version ever published by the
> > > Free Software Foundation." under section 9 of the GPL.
> >
> > No, the Authors clearly stated that only v2 applies for the kernel as a
> > whole, again single files may be under a different license (GPL
> > compatible), and so, some of them may be under a GPL version that allow
> > them to be used with the future GPLv3 license. Again to determine it you
> > should really contact the authors of the files and ask them.
> What if I take the kernel from before that notice was added?
> Then there would be nothing at all specifying that only the GPL v2 should be 
> used.

It really depends on what's written on the COPYING file before that, I'm
not sure.

> I also would also like to poit out that the GPL under section 0 says:
> This License applies to any program or other work which contains a notice 
> placed by the copyright holder saying it may be distributed under the terms 
> of this General Public License.
> Such a notice is not present for most of the files in the kernel sorce.

Yes, but I think it is safe to assume they are under the GPL as well, or
otherwise they would not be redistributable.

> What if Torvalds would add want to relicense Linux under the GPL v3, could he 
> change the COPYING file without the permission of all the people that have 
> added code to the kernel without specifying a license?

I suppose, he would be able to change only it's own code, other
developers would need to agree to change their own.
And before you ask, it is an all or nothing, as the GPLv3 draft is
incompatible with GPLv2.


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