LinuxCon Japan 2011 just concluded in early June. While many industry and cultural groups have canceled scheduled conferences and performances in Japan due to the triple tragedy of March 11, the Linux Foundation moved forward with its annual meeting. Turnout was great – reportedly 500 strong – and the technical program was strong. There were also some great opportunities for socializing and renewing acquaintances.
The Compliance Mini-Summit drew an impressive audience of about 40 people for a four-hour program that included presentations and a panel session from open source compliance leaders:
- Shane Coughlan of Opendawn discussed the evolution of FOSS governance
- Sunil Kumar D and Timo Jokiaho of Huawei shared a corporate perspective on GPL compliance
- Bill McQuaide of Black Duck Software and Steve Grandchamp of OpenLogic, respectively, shared their insights into corporate adoption of FOSS and their wisdom and experience about FOSS compliance and governance
- Phil Koltun of the Linux Foundation discussed ways to get started with a compliance program
- Tsugikazu Shibata, a member of the LF Board of Directors, joined Bill and Steve to provide a Japanese perspective on compliance program implementation.
LinuxCon Japan also enjoyed a lively kickoff session, with Linus Torvalds reminiscing about 20 years of Linux kernel work, as prompted by questions from Greg Kroah-Hartman and the audience. Part of the dialogue was of particular pertinence to those of us involved with compliance work. A member of the audience asked, regarding the kernel: “Are you still happy with the license or do you think it needs an upgrade or do you regret having chosen the GPL back then?” Linus’ response was worth transcribing:
“I’m veryhappy with the GPL. The reason – the original Linux license – I don’t know how many people know this – probably most – I did not actually start out with the GPL. I started out with my own personal license that I wrote that was, like, one paragraph and the license – I have it somewhere – but it basically said you can charge no money for this. You have to give source code back. And that was it. And it was not a license that would probably ever stand up in court, or at least it wasn’t well known. And then the “no money can change hands” turned out to be a problem very early on. Even in, like, early ’92, you had small distributions that would copy floppies for people at Unix user’s groups or selling them in Byte Magazine or something like that. And they wanted to charge, like, five bucks for the service of copying two or four or twelve floppies at that time. And they said “I really need to charge money for this because it’s my time and my floppies.” So I said OK, I will change the license. I looked around and I thought the GPL version 2 was exactly what I was looking for, saying that I give this out because I like doing it, but I want people who make changes and improvements … I want those changes and improvements to come back to me under the same license. And I think it’s a very fair license. I think it’s a license that is also very successful. And I think it’s something that really speaks to people at a very deep level, the whole fairness notion that I give you something, you give me something back. And I’m very happy with the license. It’s worked very well.”
If you’re interested in the entire hour-long discussion with Linus, check out the video at the Linux Foundation site. (The GPL remarks come at around the 53-minute mark.) For more LF resources on compliance, including white papers, webinars, self-assessment checklist, and open source tools, go to the Linux Foundation’s open compliance program webpage. The Linux Foundation offers on-site and confidential training on how to implement a compliance program. For more information, please see our training descriptions or send email to
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