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Why Not Have A GPL 2.1 As Well?

Posted in Action, DRM, Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, Law at 1:52 am by Shane Coyle

Many developers, most notably Linus Torvalds and many kernel maintainers, are perfectly happy with the current General Public License and for many projects, relicensing could be a painful or even impossible task – especially since it has been said that GPLv3 will be incompatible with GPLv2.

Can the Free Software Foundation be convinced to also work out an update to the GPLv2 that will include the Microvell-deal verbiage? Many have stated that they feel that FSF’s hesitancy to pursue Microvell under GPLv2 is because it has become the rallying cry for the upcoming v3, which was lacking popular support pre-Microvell.

If the GPLv2 is updated, both versions 2.1 and 3 would be available under the commonly implemented "or any later version" clause, or developers could continue to explicitly specifiy the version as others have opted to do. So, I ask, why not have a GPL 2.1 as well?

Isn’t the point to help protect developers from having their code hijacked and proprietized? Wouldn’t the cause of Free Software be better served by providing a patched version 2 as well? I am on the record as having seen the need for GPLv3, but I also see the need for GPLv2.1. I hope that Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen will agree.

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  1. Kripken said,

    February 5, 2007 at 5:32 am


    Even if a GPL 2.1 were conceived, migrating Linux to it would be as easy as migrating to GPL 3, that is, very hard.

    You might solve one problem – that Linus et al don’t WANT the GPL 3 – but you won’t be solving the other problem, that their ability to migrate to it is limited.

    Still, given the will, perhaps they will make the effort, who knows.

    Anyhow, even if Linux stays at GPL 2, all the GNU software will go GPL 3. That will be enough of a problem for Novell.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 5, 2007 at 5:59 am


    I used to think about this as well (“GPL 2.5″ I called it). Linus can select those GPLv3 changes (diff GPLv3 GPLv2) that he is interested in while discarding the rest (e.g. ‘Tivoisation’ clauses). It is in the kernel hackers’ best interest to ensure ‘IP clouds’ don’t loom over their work, be it due to Novell or due to other future factors. Just look at Blackboard’s recent game of words that’s probably crafted to benefit their venture capitalist ($10 million from Microsoft), as well as themselves.

    I suspect that the Free Software Foundation would accommodate the need for a compromise — a GPLv2.x licence. Failing that, nothing is achieve. Better an in-between solution than nothing at all.

  3. shane said,

    February 5, 2007 at 11:43 am


    The kernel is not the only project, at this time MySQL publicly stated it wants to stay with GPL 2.x for now, as have quite a few projects (I have historically removed the or later clause from my work, the next EDU-Nix CD is the first time I will leave it in).

    If the Free Software community is a nation, GPL2 has become our defacto Constitution – we should amend it, not abandon it.

    GPL3 has its place and purpose, but will not be for everyone, but Freedom is for everyone and we should do all we can to provide folks the ability to keep their code Free with whatever version of GPL they prefer.

    GPL2 needs to be patched, instead of leaving a known unpatched security hole and using it as leverage to upgrade to a new version with features I don’t necessarily want or need – doesn’t that sound like someone else’s strategy?

  4. Draconishinobi said,

    February 5, 2007 at 8:07 pm


    The problem is as Kripken stated … migrating to anything will be difficult, just as difficult as migrating to v3. As for a “patch” … in terms of licenses, there is no such thing. Ask a lawyer if you don’t believe me … remember to bring cash :D

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