Linux Kernel Developers Embracing Authors Embracing Licenses

Linux Kernel Developers Embracing Authors Embracing Licenses

Lars Linden (University of Central Florida, Orlando, USA) and Carol Saunders (University of Central Florida, Orlando, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jantti.2009070102
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In June 2007, with the impending release of a revised version of the GNU General Public License (GPLv3), Linux kernel developers discussed the possibility of changing the license of the Linux kernel from being strictly the GPLv2 to a dual-licensing arrangement of both GPLv2 and GPLv3. We studied a set of Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) postings to better understand the relationship among the kernel developers and these licenses. Using Actor-Network Theory, we identify and describe a LKML debate about licensing. Our narrative highlights important actor networks, their interrelationships, and a (failed) process of translation. The details suggest that the conceptualization of a copyright license as a monolithic social force maintaining the Linux community should be tempered with an appreciation of authorship and its distributed nature within Linux development.

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