GPL v3

The current problems with the upgrade from GPLv2 to GPLv3 and the arguments between Torvalds and Stallman were exactly the kind of problem I was forecasting in a paper that I gave at the AHRB copyright conference where the purported benefits of commons-based peer production are destroyed if that commons is but a simulacra of a commons (see also Libre Commons for a similar critique).

The privatisation of a distributed collective project (i.e. ownership of copyright being dispersed through a community) will eventually run into problems when the project requires unpicking to move on for whatever reason. I think that Stallman is making some important and critical moves in the protection of the Free Software ‘commons’ by GPLv3 which Torvalds completely fails to understand or care about. Somehow the FSF need to address the fragmentation possible by license upgrades to prevent a balkanisation when threats to the integrity of the FSF commons are made (i.e. through DRM). This may well be an unforeseen and unintended consequence of the all-conquering power of the GPL copyleft clause that Moglen was so delighted about. I suggest that they think carefully about the future move to GPLv4 whilst drafting, as well as considering legacy code. Otherwise we’ll all be going through this again in a few years.

In any case, Torvalds has for a long time tried to portray a ‘sensible’ or common-sense approach whilst harbouring a great dislike for Stallman (which I think sometimes verges on the pathological) but here the question really needs to be asked as to whether he is acting for the good of the community of Linux developers or to win some petty battle. One reason for suspicion is that he speaks as if he is king of the castle, and doesn’t so far, seem to interested in the democratic voice of all the developers.


One thought on “GPL v3

  1. Samir Chopra says:

    David,I think you are spot on about Torvald’s relationship with Stallman. Its like he can’t see the message because of the messenger (or something along those lines).Cheers,Samir

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