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Redhat Licensing

Code is contributed to the Linux kernel under a number of licenses, but all code must be compatible with version 2 of the GNU General Public License (GPLv2), which is the license covering the kernel distribution as a whole. In practice, that means that all code contributions are covered either by GPLv2 (with, optionally, language allowing distribution under later versions of the GPL) or the three-clause BSD license. Any contributions which are not covered by a compatible license will not be accepted into the kernel.
Copyright assignments are not required (or requested) for code contributed to the kernel. All code merged into the mainline kernel retains its original ownership; as a result, the kernel now has thousands of owners.
One implication of this ownership structure is that any attempt to change the licensing of the kernel is doomed to almost certain failure. There are few practical scenarios where the agreement of all copyright holders could be obtained (or their code removed from the kernel). So, in particular, there is no prospect of a migration to version 3 of the GPL in the foreseeable future.
It is imperative that all code contributed to the kernel be legitimately free software. For that reason, code from anonymous (or pseudonymous) contributors will not be accepted. All contributors are required to "sign off" on their code, stating that the code can be distributed with the kernel under the GPL. Code which has not been licensed as free software by its owner, or which risks creating copyright-related problems for the kernel (such as code which derives from reverse-engineering efforts lacking proper safeguards) cannot be contributed.
Questions about copyright-related issues are common on Linux development mailing lists. Such questions will normally receive no shortage of answers, but one should bear in mind that the people answering those questions are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice. If you have legal questions relating to Linux source code, there is no substitute for talking with a lawyer who understands this field. Relying on answers obtained on technical mailing lists is a risky affair.


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