If I took the linux kernel, rewrite it and changed the order and file names and some other stuff, and destroy the original linux kernel, will the new kernel be subject to the terms of the GPL?

tl;dr: If I rewrite the linux kernel, change almost every line while keeping the same computation and delete the original kernel will the GPL apply to the new kernel?

Not a duplicate of Theseus' Paradox applied to code copyright as that is modifying the source without rewriting it. As far as I am aware the GPL has anti-circumvention measures for this too

  • I've dupe-closed this because the difference between totally rewriting and totally modifying are almost nonexistent, which is the reason you gave against duplication. The answers to the linked question apply equally to this one, so you'll find your answer there.
    – ArtOfCode
    Aug 23, 2016 at 21:39

1 Answer 1


You could write your own kernel and license it in any way you like since you would be the author, but it wouldn't be the Linux kernel.

However in your question you seem to say that you would be following the source code of Linux closely. If you do so and claim copyright on it, then you could be accused of plagiarism and sued for copyright infringement, exactly as when making a movie or a book that borrows too much from an existing work.

Not relevant any more: As for your initial opinionated comment, it should be removed from the question. But while it is still there, let me answer that the people who put work into building the wonderful system that Linux is gave it to the world on their own terms. If you don't like these terms, nobody forces you to use it but don't pretend it is not free, because it is.

  • I know it's a bit opinionated, but I removed it anyways. Going to build my own linux-compatible kernel now ;) Aug 23, 2016 at 16:25
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    Note that you probably also mean to say it would be copyright infringement as an unauthorized derivative work. Plagiarism is an ethical concern (rather than a legal one) related to attribution, and is orthogonal to copyright infringement.
    – apsillers
    Aug 23, 2016 at 17:32
  • You are right (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism). I didn't know that it had no legal definition because I read newspapers articles saying "the court has ruled that this was plagiarism". I am updating the answer to address your remark.
    – Zimm i48
    Aug 23, 2016 at 18:10
  • Well, I have no concern with any form of attribution whatsoever. What I dont like is the GPL. I want to use my own copyleft Aug 23, 2016 at 19:49
  • It doesn't seem that your own license is much different from GPL 2.0 actually. But this is not the place to discuss that. Anyway attribution only wouldn't be enough to avoid copyright infringement. You can create a linux-compatible kernel but you would need to invent it all by yourself.
    – Zimm i48
    Aug 23, 2016 at 20:00

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