Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux operating system, warned developers not to use an Oracle-owned file system because of the company’s ‘litigious nature’

linus torvalds

The renowned programmer Linus Torvalds has warned users of Linux, the popular open source operating system he built, not to use an Oracle file system because of possible legal actions, Phoronix’s Michael Larabel first reported.

The file system, called ZFS, was built by Sun Microsystems, which has since been acquired by Oracle. Torvalds wrote in an online forum on Jan. 6 that he does not feel “safe” in adding ZFS code to the Linux project because of Oracle’s tendency to file lawsuits against other companies, including an ongoing legal brawl between Google and Oracle.

“Other people think it can be ok to merge ZFS code into the kernel and that the module interface makes it ok, and that’s their decision,” Torvalds wrote. “But considering Oracle’s litigious nature, and the questions over licensing, there’s no way I can feel safe in ever doing so.”

Oracle has accused Google of “stealing” its Java technology to build the Android operating system,

Oracle’s lawsuit against Google, which is over “stealing” Java technology for Google’s Android system and could cost Google as much as $9 billion, is set to go to the Supreme Court this year. Google and its supporters in the case have argued that an Oracle victory in this case would have a chilling effect on software innovation.

Through that lens, Torvalds’ comments highlight how Oracle’s standing in the matter might affect its reputation in the open source software world, potentially steering programmers away from its products and services.

What’s more, ZFS and Linux have different licenses, and according to an FAQ about ZFS on Linux, the combination of the two licenses could potentially cause problems and prevent users from using code exclusively available under one license with code exclusively available under the other.

Torvalds wrote that there is “no way” he can merge any ZFS code until he gets an official letter from Oracle signed by its main legal counsel, or by executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison saying that it’s fine to do so.

Torvalds said that if other users choose to add ZFS, “they are on their own,” as he can’t maintain it.

“Don’t use ZFS,” Torvalds wrote. “It’s that simple. It was always more of a buzzword than anything else, I feel, and the licensing issues just make it a non-starter for me. The benchmarks I’ve seen do not make ZFS look all that great.”