Linux has a developer kill switch that may be pulled after outrage over Code of Conduct

The Linux kernel is the base platform on which desktop and mobile operating systems like Android are built on top of. It also runs on lots of networking gear and as IoT has entered our lives, even home appliances are running the Linux kernel.

Right now the Linux community is divided over an updated Code of Conduct. The biggest sticking point is the suggestion that code submissions would see politics, not absolute code-quality be the determiner of a successful or unsuccessful commit. 

Being open-source, many developers and companies have taken Linux and build products (and businesses) on top of it, but hidden inside that kernel code, lies a kill switch in the form of developer’s copyright over their code. Contributed under a GPL 2.0 licence, if a developer chooses to revoke their code, they could, should a team of developers do that at the same time, it could break products and services that we all use. 

The new Code of Conduct arrives as Linux founder Linus Torvalds has stepped down from the project. 

An open letter posted to the Linux Kernel Mailing List encourages project contributors that have been banned under the new COC, to do just that, pull their code together. In doing so, this code could no longer be used, or those who do, would be open to being sued for doing so under Copyright law. 

The whole controversy over the Linux Code of Conduct is complex, but FastGadgets has a great video on YouTube detailing what’s going on.  You should also read the full post over at


There has now been a revised Code of Conduct proposed. You can read it here. This removes some of the controversial parts of the COC. 

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Jason Cartwright
Jason Cartwright
Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021


  1. I thought it was already legally clarified that developers could not just pull the code they previously volunteers to any OpenSource like Linux, under the GNU agreements!? Is this (weeks) old news?

  2. The controversy isn’t complex – it’s badly worded, politically motivated and allows for banning people for outside (non-kernel, unrelated) comments made years ago.

    It’d be like a volunteer-run drug rehab centre in the US suddenly bringing in a policy that volunteers can’t smoke weed… Then immediately using a vague term in the policy to ban an unpaid volunteer because he/she smoked a joint on a holiday in Amsterdam 15 years ago.

  3. You may want to refer to this video and other articles regarding Stalmin’s, lawyer backed, statement on the matter. In a nutshell once code is published under the GPL, in this case v2, the licence cannot be rescinded.

    There is actually a protection in place for this specific case so that malicious actors can’t screw over a competitor who’s built on top of their GPL code.

    “To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that forbid anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to surrender the rights.”

    So…… Yeah… anyone means even the person who wrote the code. And you can’t even be asked nicely to surrender your rights. That’s pretty definitive.

    Whilst I agree that code should be accessed on its merit alone without the political BS of do we like a given a contributor or not the fact of the matter stands, you have to be pretty egotistical to think you can play god with a GPL project. Or have a really bad lawyer who has no idea what the GPL is and how it works… Probably both TBH.

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