From Forbes, a highly perjorative look at the Free Software Foundation: Linux’s Hit Men [pdf]. Note that what really seems to steam the Forbes writer is that the FSF doesn’t seem to care about money — what kind of nuts are these people, anyway?
For months, in secret, the Free Software Foundation, a Boston-based group that controls the licensing process for Linux and other “free” programs, has been making threats to Cisco Systems (nasdaq: CSCO - news - people ) and Broadcom (nasdaq: BRCM - news - people ) over a networking router that runs the Linux operating system.
The router is made by Linksys, a company Cisco acquired in June. It lets you hook computers together on a wireless Wi-Fi network, employing a high-speed standard called 802.11g. Aimed at home users, the $129 device has been a smash hit, selling 400,000 units in the first quarter of this year alone.
But now there’s a problem. The Linux software in the router is distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), which the Free Software Foundation created in 1991.
Under the license, if you distribute GPL software in a product, you must also distribute the software’s source code. And not just the GPL code, but also the code for any “derivative works” you’ve created–even if publishing that code means anyone can now make a knockoff of your product.
Not great news if you’re Cisco, which paid $500 million for Linksys. In Cisco’s case, it’s even trickier, because the disputed code resides on chips that Linksys buys from Broadcom. So now Cisco is caught between the Free Software Foundation and one of its big suppliers.
[...] In some ways, these Free Software Foundation “enforcement actions” can be more dangerous than a typical copyright spat, because usually copyright holders seek money–say, royalties on the product that infringing companies are selling. But the Free Software Foundation doesn’t want royalties–it wants you to burn down your house, or at the very least share it with cloners.
Or maybe, as some suggest, the foundation wants GPL-covered code to creep into commercial products so it can use GPL to force open those products. Kuhn says that’s nuts–”pure propaganda rhetoric.” But he concedes that his foundation hates the way companies like Oracle (nasdaq: ORCL - news - people ) and Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) generate billions of dollars by selling software licenses. “We’d like people to stop selling proprietary software. It’s bad for the world,” Kuhn says.
[...] Such a pity, comrade.
Hmmm - Oracle and Microsoft "generate" software revenue? What do they have, printing presses?
Slashdot discussion: The FSF, Linux’s Hit Men
In addition to the general complaints about the sheer audacity of the propaganda in this article, there’s this great comment:
Re:Great quote: (Score:4, Insightful)
by fermion (181285) on Tuesday October 14, @10:11AM (#7208360)
(Last Journal: Saturday October 04, @11:52PM)
I find this real interesting because I would think Forbes would be pro IP. For instance, do they support the RIAA? I guess they do not. Music for all practical intents and purposes is free. If someone buys music, it is out of a respect for laws and various contracts that says we buy goods and services. We have always been able to get music for free, it is just easier now. The fact that music sales have remained as high as they have, in spite of music being freely available, in spite of the RIAA attacking customers and potential customers, in spite of the economy being in such a slump that many people have no money.
And does Forbes believe in EULA that says you must have a license for each machine or each processor? I guess not. After all, the consequences to businesses for violating these agreements are extreme. A company with several PCs and lacking a single license for the MS software could be a great deal of trouble. And the gestapo tactics of the BSA audits and spy software certainly cannot be good a corporation.
Many of these adults remind me so much of adolescents who want to pick and choose the rules. The GPL is disclosed up front and a person chooses to use the GPL code or not. If they choose to used it and violate the license, there are consequences, just like any other violation. It is childish to say after the fact that the rules are unfair. The rules were agreed to when the software was used. And unlike some other software or music licenses, there is no element of constraint or duress, and the GPL has no element of unreasonable restrictions of rights.
The fact is that corporations want others to pay for their worthless products, but refuse the same in return. We have seen this with the RIAA and expensive industry reports. I have seen this with guys make 100K a year but only go to movies when they are free. And we see this know with companies that steal code but complain when others do the same.