Linus Torvalds, leader of the Linux kernel project and a major figure in the open-source programming movement, said Wednesday he's "pretty pleased" with changes in a third draft of the General Public License (GPL) released Wednesday.
The Linux kernel and many higher-level software packages are governed by the current GPL 2, and Torvalds has expressed strong displeasure with earlier version 3 drafts. After a preliminary analysis of GPL 3, however, some of those concerns are gone or moderated, he said.
"I'm actually pretty pleased. Not because I think it's perfect, but simply because I think it's certainly a lot better than I really expected from the previous drafts," he said in an interview. "Whether it's actually a better license than the GPLv2, I'm still a bit skeptical, but at least it's now 'I'm skeptical' rather than 'Hell no!'"
In particular, one provision against digital rights management has been narrowed, and another that Torvalds feared could lead to multiple incompatible versions of the GPL has been removed or defanged.
"I'm much happier with many parts of it. I think much of it reads better, and some of the worst horrors have been removed entirely," Torvalds said.
Torvalds was noncommittal about whether he might try to move the Linux kernel to GPL 3--a change that would require the permission not just of Torvalds but also of all other Linux kernel copyright holders. But he didn't rule it out.
"The current draft makes me think it's at least a possibility in theory, but whether it's practical and worth it is a totally different thing," he said. "Practically speaking, it would involve a lot of work to make sure everything relevant is GPLv3-compatible even if we decided that the GPL 3 is OK."
DRM remains a sticking point. The Free Software Foundation drafting the document wants to prohibit hardware companies such as TiVo from imposing restrictions on GPL software used in their products, but Torvalds believes that should be permitted.
"The 'we control not just the software, but also the hardware it runs on' parts still drive me up the wall because I think they are so fundamentally broken. But the new draft at least limits it to a much saner subset and makes it clearer too," Torvalds said.
"Unlike the earlier drafts, it at least seems to not sully the good name of the GPL any more," Torvalds added.