Interview with Linus Torvalds on Simple-Talk

Over on Simple-Talk, Richard Morris interviews Linus Torvalds. Linus talks about Microsoft, patents, micro-kernels, the GPL, innovation, and much more. An awesome interview. Here’s an excerpt, where Linus talks about ‘free’ software:

That word ‘free’ is actually a word I try to avoid using,
because it means so many different things. And no, I don’t mean just
the trivial difference between ‘free of cost’ (as in ‘gratis’) and
‘freedom’. Even in just the ’freedom’ meaning, different people have so
many different ideas of exactly what and who should have the
‘freedom’.  It’s one reason I use the term ‘Open Source’, and one
reason I’m actually known to butt heads with the FSF. They make a big
deal about the "freedom" term, and they define it in just very
particular way.

So what is ‘freedom’ to you? Is it ‘anarchy’ – the freedom to
do anything you damn well want to do? If so, the BSD license is
certainly much more free than the GPL is. Or is it any number of other
ways to describe what "freedom" might mean? Often in very emotional
terms, to boot? I’m not really interested in that kind of discussion.
It’s what I call "mental masturbation", when you engage is some
pointless intellectual exercise that has no possible meaning.  So when
I try to explain my choice of license, I use the term ‘Open Source’,
and try to explain my choice of the GPLv2 not in terms of freedom, but
in terms of how I want people to be able to improve on the source code
– by discouraging hiding and controlling of the source code with a
legal copyright license, everybody can build on the work of each other,
and it basically encourages a model where people end up working

Here’s the link to the full interview:,-geek-of-the-week/