As far as I’ve been able to tell, the SCO suit against IBM — claiming that Linux is somehow tainted by code that SCO owns the rights to — is an absurd joke, a last-ditch effort on the part of a failing company to somehow extort some money on the basis of its copyrights and patents. Farhad Manjoo wrote a definitive piece on the subject last week in Salon.
Yet listen to this “analyst”, as quoted in a Steve Lohr column in today’s New York Times:
|“It’s a real problem for the future,” said George Weiss, an analyst at Gartner. “The open-source community has been pretty cavalier about this. You’ve got to respect intellectual property.”|
“Cavalier,” dictionary.com says, is defined as “(1) showing arrogant or offhand disregard; dismissive… (2) Carefree and nonchalant; jaunty.”
I can’t think of a stupider statement on this subject. If you know anything at all about the history of Linux and the open source movement, you know that it is precisely the opposite of cavalier on this issue.
What we call Linux today is an assemblage of parts — including building-block components created by Richard Stallman and cohorts at the Free Software Foundation, and the kernel first written by Linus Torvalds — put together, with great care and effort, across nearly two decades of development. Each part has been written from the ground up and protected by open-source licensing.
The GPL (GNU Public License) has its devotees and its detractors — and there are competing models within the open-source world. But that just shows how much thought and, indeed, respect these programmers pay to thinking through the complex aspects of intellectual property as they relate to ownership of software code.
Linux’s architects have been the opposite of “dismissive” or “carefree” on these issues. Their whole project is a thoughtful, careful, “slow and steady wins the race” approach to creating a new model for the intellectual-property basis of software. To call this effort “cavalier” is just stunningly wrong.
Sure, that new model may not be to the liking of many in the commercial-software world. But it “respects” traditional notions of intellectual property even as it tries to reshape them — and that’s one reason it’s proven so enduring and effective, and why Linux will continue to prosper while SCO is likely to end up as a footnote.