Linus Torvalds' opinions regarding the GPL

Balzac's picture
Submitted by Balzac on Thu, 06/26/2008 - 17:05
Category:

Linus Torvalds has an uncomfortable pause at 44:24 in this video.

The uncomfortable pause occurs when he concludes a confused critique of the GNU General Public License.

This video was from 2001 and a lot of time has passed since then. Perhaps Linus is feeling a bit more positive about the GPL than he was at that time. Perhaps not though, because he doesn't seem very inclined to begin the process of moving the Linux Kernel to GPLv3.

Linus has contributed a lot of time and effort to a very successful and useful GPL-licensed project. That code is running on my computer right now.

I hope that Linus can see that there are larger issues than efficiency, functionality, or the success of a particular software project.

If Linus remains ideologically opposed or even indifferent to the best aspects of the GPL and the mission of the FSF, I cannot feel a true sense of belonging to the Linux community.

Redhat GNU/Linux is running on the transaction servers of the New York Stock Exchange. That is a significant milestone for the Free Software community and the Open Source business allies.

It seems like a fine time for Mr. Torvalds to begin to widen the scope of his efforts to include ideological and social aspects of software design. I hope to see a commitment from Linus Torvalds to respect computer users' freedom.

Jimbob's picture

Jimbob

6 years 2 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago

5

You are not alone

It appears there are many of us in the free software community who feel uncomfortable (at best) with Torvalds' attitudes toward freedom and the GPL.

I submitted your post here:

http://www.fsdaily.com/Community/Linus_Torvalds_opinions_regarding_the_GPL

ModplanMan's picture

ModplanMan

6 years 2 weeks 2 days 4 hours ago

-3

Sigh

What I find sad is out of an hour long video you pull out a very specific, near meaningless and already well documented part of the video.

He's already said previously why he isn't enthused about the likes of the GPL - he's said previously how he isn't really that fond of the legal process.

What's also strange is your idea of "I hope that Linus can see that there are larger issues than efficiency, functionality, or the success of a particular software project.".

That's EXACTLY why the GPL and open source exists - for the sake of efficiency, functionality, etc. Because the proprietary model seemed wrong for a number of reasons. The four freedoms are expressly for that purpose, in allowing users and developers to get better efficiency, functionality etc out of their software. It isn't philosophical, because it is hugely grounded in the practicality. Sadly people get too caught up in the use of the word freedom and think it's some rebel/anarchist thing to overthrow things along the line of "the man".

This is not, and never was a mission - especially considering this is his own kernel, therefore he does know what it's intentions were - it was just a seemingly better, more useful and productive system of development, that has been hijacked by would-be hippies who keep tying development ideas to philosophical concepts, that at first are kind of relevant, but then get taken to such an extreme that they completely forget the original point.

To be productive, efficient, and have better software that did what software was supposed to - help and do a job, not fragment, divide and conquer.

Balzac's picture

Balzac

6 years 2 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago

5

Exactly wrong, ModplanMan.

"That's EXACTLY why the GPL and open source exists - for the sake of efficiency, functionality, etc." - ModplanMan

You are completely opposite of correct in this assertion. As ricegf pointed out below, you're ignoring the reasons for creating the GNU General Public License as stated by the creator of the GNU GPL - Richard M. Stallman.

I recommend you read this book before you speak further on the motives of the author of the GNU General Public License and the founder of the GNU project.

Free Software Free Society: selected essays of Richard M. Stallman

I'm about a third of the way into it and I highly recommend it. I expect I'll read it more than once.

aboutblank's picture

aboutblank

6 years 1 week 4 days 1 hour ago

3

Free Software is a Matter of Liberty

Proprietary software is intended to divide and conquer users. Users cannot live in freedom whenever they accept proprietary software. Software masters expect users to be helpless as they deprive users of the right to freedoms 0 and 1. How can a user live in freedom if they are expected to be helpless to help themselves? Software masters expect users to stop being good citizens as they deprive users of the right to freedoms 2 and 3. How can a user live in freedom if they are expected to refuse to help their community? The only way to live in freedom is to get rid of proprietary software and invest your resources into improving free software.

The whole point of free software is freedom. RMS started the Free Software Movement and the GNU project for the purpose of advocating freedom as well as providing a software system to escape from proprietary software. The Open Source Initiative was formed in order to promote the practical benefits of freedom without regard to ethical aspects of freedom. Please do us a favour and never confuse free software with open source software; they are philosophically different things.

hutchiep190's picture

hutchiep190

6 years 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago

4

Freedom is more important

Yes, the open source movement stands for the technical advantages of efficiency and functionality. But freedom is the important thing. If proprietary software were more efficient and functional, that wouldn't make it preferable. I prefer free software because there is the freedom to use it for any purpose (freedom 0). The open source community doesn't push this as much and there exist open source projects that are not free in this sense. There are serious issues of trust in proprietary software that free software doesn't have. Free software doesn't nag you or shut you down when they suspect you of something.

One of the other best things about free software is that if those sort of negative things ever do happen in a project, it is perfectly legal for someone to fork it and use it as a base for their own project where they strip out the negatives. That is NOT the basis for open source, which doesn't necessarily guarantee that freedom.

ricegf's picture

ricegf

6 years 2 weeks 2 days 56 min ago

5

Freedom isn't always efficient

"That's EXACTLY why the GPL and open source exists - for the sake of efficiency, functionality, etc."

Well... no. I'm sure you've heard of the author of the GPL (and the father of free software), Richard M. Stallman aka rms. You might not like him, or even agree with him on most issues, but I think you'll agree that he has final say on why he wrote the GPL:

"Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software."

and

"In the GNU project, we use ``copyleft'' to protect these freedoms legally for everyone."

and

"Copyleft is a general concept; there are many ways to fill in the details. In the GNU Project, the specific distribution terms that we use are contained in the GNU General Public License (GPL)"

Noticeably lacking in these or any other discussions at fsf.org is any mention of efficiency at all (tryhttp://www.fsf.org/search?SearchableText=efficiency, for example). It's simply not a goal of the GPL according to its author (though it is certainly a happy side-effect), and you are mistaken to state that it is.

I hope you'll forgive my bluntness; I'm simply mirroring your own. :-) Best wishes in any event.

shmget's picture

shmget

6 years 2 weeks 1 day 14 hours ago

-2

freedom

"I hope that Linus can see that there are larger issues than efficiency, functionality, or the success of a particular software project."
That is your POV, not a 'Truth(tm)', hence one can not necessarily 'see' what is not necessarily there.

"It seems like a fine time for Mr. Torvalds to begin to widen the scope of his efforts to include ideological and social aspects of software design. I hope to see a commitment from Linus Torvalds to respect computer users' freedom."

How about Linus freedom not to care about ideological and/or social aspects ? Or is it that in the name of 'Freedom', one should lose the freedom to care or not about something ?

"Linus has contributed a lot of time and effort to a very successful and useful GPL-licensed project. That code is running on my computer right now."

And why can' you just appreciate that, and not insist that he also espouse to the letter whatever religious or political affiliation you may have ?.

How hard is it to phantom that one may choose a version of the GPL, for purely pragmatic reason and not necessarily philosophical one ?

Balzac's picture

Balzac

6 years 2 weeks 21 hours 41 min ago

2

We seem to hold different values.

This is why I don't actually consider myself a part of the "Linux community". Freedom is everything to me.

I wonder how the Hurd project is coming along...