just curious: why no mention of GNU?

J.B. Nicholson-Owens jbn at forestfield.org
Wed Apr 13 18:21:53 CDT 2005


Many of the points raised are addressed directly by the FSF's FAQ on this
issue.  I encourage reading the entire FAQ at
http://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-linux-faq.html.

Dmitriy Kropivnitskiy wrote:
> So, basically, since GNU project is the proud owner of the implementation 
> of libc and a few utilities used by most linux distributions, they feel 
> that they have enough leverage to bully people into inserting their name 
> into any project they desire.

Actually, the relationship goes well beyond "a few utilities".  The most
popular free software license is the GNU GPL written by the FSF.  The GNU
Project started the community that others have spun off into various
activities, including the open source movement.  The GNU Compiler Collection
continues to be remarkably influential, serving as the most widely ported C
compiler and most popular (even used as the chief compiler to build some
non-free operating systems).  GNOME is also an official part of the GNU
Project (the "GNU Network Object Model Environment").  And there's more
which others can fill in.

So, you considerably underestimate their influence, but ironically, you arrive
at the opposite conclusion your argument suggests: Linus Torvalds' input is
relatively small and narrow in scope yet the "Linux" name should get sole
billing.  The FSF is asking for a share of the credit, not to prevent the
Linux kernel from receiving any mention.  Yet one can't say the opposite when
calling the whole system "Linux".

As for "bully[ing] people", this is hardly the case.  The FAQ I've pointed to
numerous times now clearly asks people to consider their well-backed argument
and make their decision.  There is no force involved.  See
http://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-linux-faq.html#whynotsue on why they are not suing
people into calling the variant of the GNU OS with the Linux kernel "GNU/Linux".

"[I]nserting their name into any project they desire" also profoundly
mischaracterizes what they're after.  Not only do they not ask for that, they
don't even ask that of GPL-covered programs.  See
http://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-linux-faq.html#allgpled for their view on that.

> As far as I know Linux did not originate as part of GNU project although it
> was released under GNU license.

This is correct.  The Linux kernel has never been nor is it now a GNU Project
activity.  It is released under the GNU GPL with some exceptions granted to
allow linking beyond that which the GPL would allow without the exception.

However the term GNU/Linux doesn't denote that the Linux kernel is a GNU
Project work.  "GNU Linux" might denote that which is why the FSF doesn't ask
for that syntax.

> It is also my understanding that GPL doesn't grant GNU project ownership of
> the code.

This too is correct.  Licensing one's work under a CC license doesn't mean the
Creative Commons organization controls the copyright.  Copyright assignment
requires far more than merely using a license written by someone else.

But the term GNU/Linux doesn't denote ownership.  As the aforementioned FAQ
says, think "Input/Output" (see
http://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-linux-faq.html#TOCwhyslash).  The goal is for GNU
to get a share of the credit and thus to help people better understand what
they have, or to spur people to ask about GNU.  Mentioning only "Linux" gets
people thinking about one man and his philosophy then erroneously assigning
far more than credit than Torvalds is due to the entire work and believing
that his philosophy somehow steers the development of the entire system.

> When people start this ancient debate of Linux vs. GNU/Linux again, I kinda
> start thinking, just how hard it would be to port BSD version of libc to 
> linux. It is probably hard, but I think a lot of people would follow just 
> to stop the GNU/Linux madness.

When I think of something ancient, I think of something dating back
thousands of years.  We're dealing with something far more recent than that.
Let's not exaggerate to make a false claim.

People have ported other kernels to run with the GNU OS.  There is GNU/HURD
(GNU running with the HURD kernel replacement, the shorter name for which is
simply "GNU" as this is the official GNU OS), there is also GNU running atop a
kernel from a BSD system.  These other GNU variants aren't anywhere near as
popular as GNU/Linux, but they exist and they run much as the Linux kernel
did when it was young.  So there is some value to identifying which variant
of the GNU OS one is talking about.

But to cast this debate as if it is about glibc would be incorrect.  There is
more to GNU than glibc.



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