The licensing text in the Linux kernel source files is inconsistent in verbiage and format. Typically, in each of its ~100k files there is a license text that describes which license applies to each specific file. While all licenses are GPLv2 compatible, properly identifying the licenses that are applicable to a specific file is very hard. To address this problem, a group of developers recently embarked on a mission to use SPDX® to research and map these inconsistencies in the licensing text. As a result of this 10 month long effort, the Linux 4.14 release includes changes to make the licensing text consistent across the kernel source files and modules. Linux Kernel License As stated on its COPYING file, the Linux kernel’s default license is GPLv2, with an exception that grants additional rights to the kernel users:
NOTE! This copyright does *not* cover user programs that use kernel
services by normal system calls - this is merely considered normal use
of the kernel, and does *not* fall under the heading of "derived work".
Also note that the GPL below is copyrighted by the Free Software
Foundation, but the instance of code that it refers to (the Linux
kernel) is copyrighted by me and others who actually wrote it.
Also note that the only valid version of the GPL as far as the kernel
is concerned is _this_ particular version of the license (ie v2, not
v2.2 or v3.x or whatever), unless explicitly otherwise stated.
The kernel’s COPYING file produces two practical effects: User-space applications can use non-GPL […]