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Linux Developers Will Have to Swear Their Contributions are Clean from Now On

Linux Developers Will Have to Swear Their Contributions are Clean from Now On

The Open Source Development Labs, where Linux creator Linus Torvalds and Linux 2.6 production kernel maintainer Andrew Morton work these days, is changing the way Linux is developed from here on out to track who's contributing to the code and that the code they submit is clean.

Code submitters are going to have to sign a so-called Developer's Certificate of Origin (DCO) affirming that they wrote the code they're tossing into the pot - either in whole or in part - and that they have a right to submit it under an appropriate open source license.

The OSDL's announcement first thing Monday morning made much of the move ensuring that developers get proper credit for their contributions and OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen told us that it had "nothing" to do with SCO, which when we repeated that remark to SCO sent SCO back on its haunches to brace itself while it had a rollicking good laugh.

According to SCO spokesman Blake Stowell, "If there weren't IP issues in Linux today, they wouldn't be doing this."

Cohen indicated the DCO was developed in response to "big business and government" concerns as well as the consortium's advisor council, but characterized it as a coming-of-age for Linux, putting it on a par, he said, with "similar documentation found in proprietary operating systems and applications."

Linus had no problem drawing a straight line between this new DCO thing and SCO, which for the purpose he dubbed the "Smoking Crack Organization."

Anyway, Cohen also acknowledged that Linux has been the work of a tight little group of people known personally to Linus - probably no more than 150 people - not the thousands as painted in the popular press - but that as Linux becomes more and more mainstream, he said, that little group is going to get more elastic and anonymous.

The DCO covers derivative work as well as contributors who get submissions from third parties and pass them, unchanged, up the kernel tree. The fact that code comes from a third party will have to be acknowledged.

Cohen said the contributions would be documented inside the operating system code but only going forward, not back in time. Undocumented code will apparently not be considered for inclusion.

Linus claimed, "We've always had transparency, peer review, pride and personal responsibility." That, however, he forgets, didn't stop copyrights from being stripped off code before it was sucked up into Linux.

In a canned statement, Cohen said, "The Linux development process has worked well for more than 10 years but with its success has come new challenges. The measure we announce today goes a long way toward eliminating doubt surrounding the origin of Linux code and does so without placing any undue burden on the development community."

OSDL is supposed to review kernel submissions for DCO compliance and says it will begin educating developers and users on the DCO.

See www.osdl.org/newsroom/press_releases/2004/2004_05_24_dco.html for the DCO's exact wording.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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Most Recent Comments
riffraff 06/01/04 09:20:27 AM EDT

No, Darl, they are doing this to prevent future bottom-feeding scumbags like yourself from trying to usurp other people's code.

Fernando Lozano 05/29/04 12:29:54 PM EDT

The article makes a big mistake:

"That, however, he forgets, didn't stop copyrights from being stripped off code before it was sucked up into Linux."

Whe and where it has been proved that copyrighted code has been included on Linux and its copyright stripped off? That's SCO allegations, which have yet to be proved on court. And, besides orders from the judge, it has failed to meet three dead lines to submit specifics about this violations.

Any person, anyhere, at any company, can copy copyrighted work from someone else and insert anywhere we can. But with proprietary code nobody can take a look and see if this happened; but with free software anyone can audit this, and most projects keep version control showing who put which lines of code, and when they did. Few proprietary softwares have this kind of control.

So, if someone acts in bad faith and "steals" code to put on linux, it the code can easily, prompty be idenfied amd removed. And the cullprint blamed for.