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The following is an archive of a post made to our 'vox-tech mailing list' by one of its subscribers.

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[vox-tech] Self-replacing license [was Urgent news: Linux may berelicensed]
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[vox-tech] Self-replacing license [was Urgent news: Linux may berelicensed]



Henry House wrote:
Do you have a URL that you could share? The prank seems to have been taken
down already.
I don't think CNN ever had that prank. I think it was entirely vox-tech's, courtesy of Mr Salzman. :-)

Linux is licensed under the GPL,
version 2 (i.e., 2 and 2 only, not "version 2 or at your option any later
version" as most GPL-licensed code is). This means that Linux will not
migrate to GPL version 3 when it becomes available because it will not be
feasible to obtain agreement from all code contributors to do so.
If they had done the "version 2 or at your option" thing from the beginning, then they wouldn't have had to obtain agreement from other code contributors. Of course, it depends on the copyright notice for each bit of code: if there are any files that /do/ have the "at your option" bit, then those alone could be farmed out and used under a later GPL.

As far as I'm concerned, limiting to version 2 is the best way to go. I have generally taken that approach with my own code (not that I have much to worry about), and I didn't even know until now that Linux does the same thing.

The beef I have with the "at your option" part is that you are placing the future of your code entirely within the hands of the FSF. Now, maybe those are good hands. But theoretically, the FSF could come out with a /completely/ different, and not necessarily better, license, and call it GPL 3.0. Maybe it's suddenly not even free (not that it's likely, but who knows what RMS's successors will be like?); or maybe it tweaks the definition of "free" in a way I don't like. The thing is, I don't /know/ what's going to go into GPL 3, and by putting the "at your option" bit, I'm trusting that any changes down the road are going to be good ones.

Maybe I'd feel left out if a truly amazing sucessor appeared; but right now I /know/ what the GPL 2 is, and at the moment it's a great license. Perhaps the later one will be a /terrific/ license, but that won't change the fact that, at this time, the GPL 2 was a smart way to go, and it won't negate the fact that the GPL 2 will still be a great license.

Basically, I think the "at your option" part makes absolutely perfect sense for GNU code; and if you plan to assign your copyright to the FSF, then it makes sense to include it. For all other situations, I personally would not choose to include it.

-Micah
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