Linux and the GPL

Linux trademark

The Linux trademark is owned by Linus Torvalds, who still maintains control over the kernel.

Linux kernel license

The Linux kernel is governed by a license known as the GPL (GNU General Public License).  This license (which has received the nickname “copyleft”) allows users to modify, copy and distribute the software under the license provided. In this way, any new modified version retains the GPL license.

Those who license under the GPL must not make the software proprietary and must also provide access to the software’s source code and object code.

In essence, it allows the software to be used and manipulated by anyone, provided that they then allow the same rules to apply to any changes that may have made to the original software.

The way the obligations are achieved is done through two steps.

  1. To copyright the software as normal.
  2. To then add the rules concerning its distribution and ensure that these rules cannot change as the software changes.

This, according to the GNU license overview ensures that “the code and the freedoms become legally inseparable.”