In this video, Richard Stallman claimed that Linus Torvalds created Linux kernel as a proprietary software and then liberated it ('liberated' is the term Stallman used).

Assuming so, when was the Linux kernel made libre by Linus Torvalds?

The Linux article on English Wikipedia says as of now:

Torvalds initiated a switch from his original license, which prohibited commercial redistribution, to the GNU GPL.

but the source doesn't mention a specific year like 1992.

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    In what way is this question off-topic?
    – UncleBod
    Jun 3, 2019 at 7:19
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    The title of this question was better before the edit: "libre" is not an English word, but "liberated" is.
    – Aaron F
    Jun 3, 2019 at 14:38
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    @AaronF: "Libre" is a jargon term, just like "software". It is used as an alternative to "free", because "free" in English has two meanings, whereas Romance languages distinguish between "libre" and "gratuit" (ex. French). And since most of the world understands Spanish, French, or Italian, and "libre" is also understood by English speakers via words like "liberty" or indeed "liberate", it has stuck around as a language-neutral, universal way of referring to "Free Software" without the confusion about the meaning of "Free". Jun 3, 2019 at 14:55
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    @AaronF That comment demonstrates precisely the misunderstanding while led to the term "libre software" being introduced: it is not "free because you don't have to pay for it"; it is free because you are free to use, modify, and distribute it. A common description is "free as in free speech, not free as in free beer". It has been "liberated" from the control of a single owner, and users have been granted "freedom" over what to do with it. Plenty of software is available without charge, but with restrictions on what you can legally do with it, so this is an important distinction.
    – IMSoP
    Jun 3, 2019 at 16:04
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    "Free as in mattress, or free as in puppy?" Jun 3, 2019 at 16:48

1 Answer 1


February 1992 it changed to GPL license.

Change to GPL is notified in 0.12 release, February 1992

First GPL release 0.99, December 1992

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    Your first link says "0.92", but your second says "0.12"
    – IMSoP
    Jun 3, 2019 at 16:13
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    And this also means that at least the change at this time can't be interpreted as "liberating" (in the Stallman sense) Linux - removing the "you may not distribute it for money" condition clearly means it wasn't "proprietary" before.
    – dirkt
    Jun 3, 2019 at 16:47
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    @dirkt As far as Richard Stallman is concerned, software which you are not free to distribute for money is not Free Software. Consequently, removing that restriction "liberated" the software from that constraint.
    – IMSoP
    Jun 3, 2019 at 18:03
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    @dirkt You or I might disagree, but that's how Richard Stallman and the FSF see the world: software is either "free" or it is "non-free". Calling a license that makes the source available but restricts its use "proprietary" may seem an exaggeration, but Stallman isn't particularly known for his subtlety or acceptance of grey areas.
    – IMSoP
    Jun 3, 2019 at 20:17
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    Stallman is not a neutral arbiter of anything, and in particular he has no authority over the English language. Aug 26, 2021 at 19:41

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