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GPL version 3:Background to Adoption Print E-mail

GPL Version 3: Background to Adoption

by Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen

The GNU General Public License (``the GPL'') has remained unmodified, at version level 2, since 1991. This is extraordinary longevity for any widely-employed legal instrument. The durability of the GPL is even more surprising when one takes into account the differences between the free software movement at the time of version 2's release and the situation prevailing in 2005.

Richard M. Stallman, founder of the free software movement and author of the GNU GPL, released version 2 in 1991 after taking legal advice and collecting developer opinion concerning version 1 of the license, which had been in use since 1985. There was no formal public comment process and no significant interim transition period. The Free Software Foundation immediately relicensed the components of the GNU Project, which comprised the largest then-existing collection of copyleft software assets. In Finland, Linus Torvalds adopted GPL Version 2 for his operating system kernel, called Linux.

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