I still don't understand what Tivoization is and why Linus Torvalds did not like it. Can you explain to me the big idea of Tivoization?

  • 5
    Linus does not like GPLv3, at least not for Linux. Are you asking why Linus does not like GPLv3?
    – Brandin
    Jun 26, 2018 at 8:33
  • @Brandin Yes, i meant GPLv3.
    – Ricardo
    Jun 26, 2018 at 14:39
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    The title reads like two separate questions. If there is no connection between Tivoization and Linus Torvalds not liking the GPLv3, I would recommend to split the question. Jun 26, 2018 at 17:44
  • 4
    Can we assume that you've read en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tivoization? Jun 27, 2018 at 5:22
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    @Trilarion, there is a crystal clear connection between Tivoization and Linus not liking the GPLv3. It is his main issue with GPLv3. Please see my answer. Jun 29, 2018 at 12:27

2 Answers 2


Tivolization, named after TiVo that widely used it, is a practice of devices running free software, but placing restrictions (such as digital signatures) that block running modified versions of the software on the device.

An argument can be made (as Richard Stallman actually did), that such a device could redistribute the source code of the GPLed software it uses, but since a user cannot modify and recompile it so it's usable on the same device (since he can't digitally sign it). Thus, such a device may uphold the letter of the GPL license, but violate its spirit.

Linus Torvalds actually stated that TiVo's practice here didn't really bother him (e.g., in this correspondence on lkml from 2007):

The kernel license covers the kernel. It does not cover boot loaders and hardware, and as far as I'm concerned, people who make their own hardware can design them any which way they want. Whether that means "booting only a specific kernel" or "sharks with lasers", I don't care.

  • The irony behind this is that the GPLv3 was explicitly designed to prevent something that the copyright holder to whom this something was done didn't actually care about. Jun 26, 2018 at 22:56
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    @Jörg W Mittag Linus is not the only copyright holder of the Linux kernel. A lot of them do care and would prefer a world where the kernel would be GPLv3. Jun 26, 2018 at 23:33
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    This answer doesn't yet mention the difference between GPLv2 and GPLv3.
    – dcorking
    Jun 27, 2018 at 13:17

Linus has stated that he didn't like the anti-tivoization clause in GPLv3 because it fundamentally changes the GPL. The whole point and purpose of the GPL, in Linus' mind, is to make users of GPL software pay back to the community by making all of their improvements of GPL software available to the community under the same terms. That's it. With anti-tivoization, GPLv3 adds a completely new obligation that has absolutely nothing to do with this fundamental purpose. He has also stated that there is nothing wrong with GPLv3 in isolation, but to call it GPL version 3 and claim that it's like GPL version 2, only better, is decidedly wrong as GPLv3 is very different from GPLv2.

Source, from Q&A session with Linus at some conference in 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaKIZ7gJlRU

  • 1
    Lots of emphasis should be placed on the statement that 'to say that GPL version 3 is like GPL version 2, only better, is decidedly wrong as GPLv3 is very different from GPLv2'. In the end, GPLv2 is better for some projects, while GPLv3 is better for others, depending on what freedoms and/or limitations the copyright holder wants to place on other users of their code.
    – 3D1T0R
    Jul 5, 2018 at 20:18
  • 3
    It kind of sucks to name it v3 I agree with Linus on that point, it's a completely new license.
    – Ini
    Sep 2, 2018 at 13:43

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