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Ken Brown, Infamous for Claiming Linus Torvalds Didn't Invent Linux, Is Back
Debunked Institute Tries Anew

  • "Father of MINIX," Andy Tanenbaum, on Kenneth Brown's Claims Re Linux

      The Alexis de Toqueville Institution (ADTI), which became infamous last year for spuriously claiming that Linus Torvalds wasn't the true father of the Linux Kernel (Linus Torvalds Isn't the "Father of Linux"), is back with a report certain to raise hackles: it will argue that open-source software is on an inevitable collision course with standard intellectual property law.

      Last time round ADTI president Kenneth Brown met with instant repudiation, especially once it was discovered that the Institution receives funding from - among others - Microsoft.

      But nothing was more memorable that Linus Torvalds' own riposte, which was a brilliantly irreverent tongue-in-cheek response sent  to LinuxWorld.com by Torvalds (see "Linus Discloses *Real* Fathers of Linux"):

      "Ok, I admit it. I was just a front-man for the real fathers of Linux, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus."
      This time round Ken Brown will be claiming in his report, according to the UK-based TechWorld news site, that, "After a brief glance at much open source software development, it becomes readily apparent that a number of open source practices directly conflict with best practices associated with protecting intellectual property."  

      "Both intentionally and unintentionally, users, developers, and distributors are in conflict with traditional, staid intellectual property law," Brown intends to argue.  The report, he told the UK site, "will be made public shortly."

      Perhaps Linus Torvalds will have an equally refreshing reponse to Brown when it is. 
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      Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 3

      Anyone catch Ken Brown on _The Linux Show_, right after "Samizdat" was announced? Maybe he just doesn't come across very well in person, but the gentleman didn't seem to be able to defend his technical evaluation of Linux very well. All he could do was utter generalizations about how Linux wasn't very good and *could* contain others' IP. He didn't sound like someone who had just written a book "proving" that there was "borrowed" IP in Linux. Well, maybe he was just having an off day.

      AdTI appears to be a two man operation run out of a PO box. Their web site is full of dead-end or "under construction" links, and jumps from topic to topic, seemingly at random.

      I'm much more impressed with the writings of Andy Tanenbaum, Rob Pike and Dennis Ritchie.

      Oh, and yes, Open Source does make it hard to steal code. For the same reason that the code created under the Open Source development methodology is robust. Many eyes on the source makes for fewer errors and no IP theft.

      Getting your head around the GPL requires a far greater understanding and respect for copyright laws than writing proprietary software. I know far more about the collectively termed 'intellectual property' since I started working in open source.

      Perhaps it's not open source that's changing - it's best practices. From open publishing of scientific journals, to open access courses (lead by M.I.T., no less) to successful open projects such as wikipedia, to the BBC's experimentation with open licensing - the world is going open. Much of this was learnt from open source and the GPL.

      ATDI FOSEDAL have ALL TRUETH!!! LIE-NUX = COMUNIST HIPPEY SATAN CONSPIRASEY agnest AMERICA!!! SCOX MEGA FIGTAR for teh FREE MARKETES = ALL DOOM of EVIL LIE-NUX!!! DID you now LIE-NUX create in PINKO SOCELIST OLD EROPE??? IT IS TRUE not can hides!!! CRUSH TEH LIE-NUX!!! ALL LIE-NUX USAR too ABU GRAB NOW!!! USA #1!!! ATDI FOSEDAL plus teh OGARA DESTRUCTES all you with MEGA SCOX JESUS POWAR!!!

      ATDI FOSEDAL have ALL TRUETH!!! LIE-NUX = COMUNIST HIPPEY SATAN CONSPIRASEY agnest AMERICA!!! SCOX MEGA FIGTAR for teh FREE MARKETES = ALL DOOM of EVIL LIE-NUX!!! DID you now LIE-NUX create in PINKO SOCELIST OLD EROPE??? IT IS TRUE not can hides!!! CRUSH TEH LIE-NUX!!! ALL LIE-NUX USAR too ABU GRAB NOW!!! USA #1!!! ATDI FOSEDAL plus teh OGARA DESTRUCTES all you with MEGA SCOX JESUS POWAR!!!

      The heirs of Alexis de Tocqueville have an excellent case for suing an institution which has 1) illegally appropriated a proper name associated for 174 years with objectivity and probity and 2) slandered it beyond all hope of restoration to its former position of public esteem. If they get away with it, I plan to found the "Tomás de Torquemada Institute for Religious Freedom" and solicit the Vatican for funding.

      A debate with Brown is not a constructive thing to do, and only would lend credibility and attention to their crackpot agenda. The 50 or so persons on this planet that would benefit from this agenda do not deserve equal airtime with the 5 billion or so who think they're crooks. There's democracy at work for you, Fossedal. When push comes to show, democracy is really just a mock agenda for you.

      Fossdal spelled it wrong -

      onomatopoeic, (of words) formed in imitation of a natural sound. (www.hyperdic.net)

      In otherwords - noise that sounds like words. Combining it with the word "logically" is semantically incorrect.

      Now if he ment "illogical" arguments, then the proper word would be "illogical".

      Ironically, the same thing the author expressed....

      Now the PROBLEM with such a "debate" is that the debator must be capable of expressing axioms, facts, and logical deduction.

      None of wich Ken Brown/ADTI is known for...

      I donøt see how AdTI's Gregory Fossedal thinks he is helping his case here - "logically onomatopoeiac" is a cute phrase but what on earth does it MEAN????

      The problem with Mr. Brown's writing is that he doesn't present any facts up front. For example, from the TechWorld article:

      "After a brief glance at much open source software development, it becomes readily apparent that a number of open source practices directly conflict with best practices associated with protecting intellectual property," [Mr. Brown] writes.

      A number of open source practices. Okay - name one.

      It has been said before and apparently bears saying again: the copyright laws which make Free and Open Source Software work are the same ones that everyone else is using. If you want to use GPL code to develop your own software, great. Just abide by the license.

      Thanks for the replies, which are, if I may say so, what might be called "logically onomatopoeiac" in light of my posting above about having a subsantive debate. That is:

      1. If Ken Brown is such a callow, easily-refuted mouthpiece, one of you fellas should be able to humiliate him in a debate, and in so doing, raise your standing in the Linux community.

      2. For someone who spews forth FUD, "isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer" (A. Tanenbaum), and "isn't even worth debating," &tc. -- I mean your opinion of Mr. Brown -- you fellas sure do a lot of talking about him.

      AdTI's offer remains an open one.

      If you find any inaccuracies in Mr. Brown's works, AdTI, his publisher, will (by policy) cheerfully post a correction.

      If you'd like to debate, you're welcome; and if it makes you feel safer, we'll invite Eric Raymond ("C and B," page 33, and Torvalds jacket comment, "This is how we did it") to moderate.

      Appreciatively, Gregory Fossedal

      Overseer wrote "Linux’s own Corey Shields admitted, “The worry is that if someone wanted to be malicious, they could change core software and users could be using corrupted packages.""

      That's true, but it's also true that backdoors have been hidden in commercial software which have remained widely unknown for years. In at least one case, such a backdoor was quickly discovered when the publisher converted the product to open source.

      Maintainers of open source projects generally do not blindly accept contributions, and widely used packages, which would be the most attractive targets, also have the most people looking at the source, increasing the likelyhood that someone would see the backdoor. Is it possible that malicious code could be inserted into an open source project? Yes. Am I more concerned about malicious code in closed source software? Yes.

      You play your part so well, Greggie...

      Meaningful response? Every single name cited in your previous trash 'study' has not only repudiated your statements, but gone on to criticize the methodology of Brown's 'research', yet you don't find that meaningful?

      Ken's talent is in twisting words to sound like they add up to complete sentences while containing little or no fact and hinging on tenuous logic and broad strawman arguments that have no connection to truth, fact or the real world.

      This latest piece is more of same. To imply that open-source software is a widespread infringment of intellectual property yet somehow proprietary software is not is simply hiding behind the fact that proprietary code is not available for inspection so you can't be called on your allegations. And to build the whole strawman around the argument that since it hasn't happened yet that it must be imminent and unavoidable is ridiculously simplistic.

      Using your logic, we'd better all invest in hardhats and declare Chicken Little to be the new messiah, because the sky is surely falling soon.

      I'm sure your puppet (pay) masters appreciate all your hard work, but it's rather telling that the only place your drivel is published or taken seriously is on sites paid for by same.

      You discovered this 13 years later!!!
      The interesting thing about Open Source is that it's really easy to be prosecuted for publishing code that really has been illegally copied from other sources. If I decided to take code from some commercial product, such as Adobe Acrobat, and publish it as GPL software, Adobe wouldn't have any trouble prosecuting me. They have the published software, the source code, the license, and billing or support information. If I don't provide this information, no one would touch my code with a 10 foot pole. The minute I do, if I know that I've illegally copied the code, I also know that I could be facing a minumum of 5 years in a federal penitentary and a $150,000 fine. This iays assumed that one of the reasons that AT&T sold UNIX to Novell was because they knew that BSD and Linux had wiped out the bulk of the value. AT&T had lost their court case with BSD, and settled for terms which restricted very little of the code. Linux had cooked up alternative solutions to many of these still protected versions of code using approaches which were clearly NOT rip-offs of AT&T.

      Ironically, it has been companies like Microsoft who have now been using Open Source software and documentation to defend itself from unethical lawyers representing kitchen-table "software companies" (often little more than consulting companies).

      Which is more likely? Nhat some Open Source author will take an employer's source code and publish it as his own, assuming that no one will ever notice the similarity between his published source code, and his employer's code? Or that some well-funded company with a huge legal team will grab some open source software, hand it to some junior programmer, as "boilerplate" and then let them mangle it up a bit as they try to add a few new features, then cover the whole mess up with strict nondisclosure agreements, strict reverse engineering restrictions, and restrictions on all publications of comparative "benchmarks" such as comparing features, or performance, or reliability, or any other "similarities" between the proprietary technology and it's OpenSource counterpart.

      Thus far, I haven't seen Red Hat or SuSE threatening to sue anyone who makes such comparisons - even between distributions. What I have seen is a few proprietary vendors claiming that ALL open source code is suspect because someone MIGHT have put code that looks SIMILAR to code that's in a propriatary fork of BSD Licensed software, into their GPL software.

      Maybe it's time for a little common sense here?

      The fact is that Microsoft and SCO have benefitted generously from the Open Source community, especially source code licensed under the BSD copyrights, which allows authors to make derivative works under either proprietary or GPL licenses.

      What I find most amusing, and offensive, is when Microsoft feels that it must defy court rulings and settlements to protect a 10 line change to a 200,000 line BSD based library.

      Microsoft adds little twists to industry standard protocols, implemented under Open Source licenses, refuses to submit those alterations to any standards bodies, refuses to publish even the most basic patches, then claims that it's GPL that is viral and terrible. Microsoft rips off 200 staff-years of development effort then insists that it's 2 staff-weeks of effort is more valuable.

      SCO has enjoyed the benefits of BSD, X11, GNU, and hundreds of other Open Source projects and is now filing a fraudulent lawsuit, claiming that because this Open Source code exists in both Linux and SCO, that this constitutes a violation of SCO's intellectual property rights and contractural agreements.

      That's like coal calling the snow black.

      Rex Ballard

      You discovered this 13 years later!!!
      The interesting thing about Open Source is that it's really easy to be prosecuted for publishing code that really has been illegally copied from other sources. If I decided to take code from some commercial product, such as Adobe Acrobat, and publish it as GPL software, Adobe wouldn't have any trouble prosecuting me. They have the published software, the source code, the license, and billing or support information. If I don't provide this information, no one would touch my code with a 10 foot pole. The minute I do, if I know that I've illegally copied the code, I also know that I could be facing a minumum of 5 years in a federal penitentary and a $150,000 fine. This is as it should be.

      And do you really think that anyone who was even REMOTELY involved with any variant of UNIX wasn't watching Linux with a very intense electron microscope?

      I've always assumed that one of the reasons that AT&T sold UNIX to Novell was because they knew that BSD and Linux had wiped out the bulk of the value. AT&T had lost their court case with BSD, and settled for terms which restricted very little of the code. Linux had cooked up alternative solutions to many of these still protected versions of code using approaches which were clearly NOT rip-offs of AT&T.

      Ironically, it has been companies like Microsoft who have now been using Open Source software and documentation to defend itself from unethical lawyers representing kitchen-table "software companies" (often little more than consulting companies).

      Which is more likely? Nhat some Open Source author will take an employer's source code and publish it as his own, assuming that no one will ever notice the similarity between his published source code, and his employer's code? Or that some well-funded company with a huge legal team will grab some open source software, hand it to some junior programmer, as "boilerplate" and then let them mangle it up a bit as they try to add a few new features, then cover the whole mess up with strict nondisclosure agreements, strict reverse engineering restrictions, and restrictions on all publications of comparative "benchmarks" such as comparing features, or performance, or reliability, or any other "similarities" between the proprietary technology and it's OpenSource counterpart.

      Thus far, I haven't seen Red Hat or SuSE threatening to sue anyone who makes such comparisons - even between distributions. What I have seen is a few proprietary vendors claiming that ALL open source code is suspect because someone MIGHT have put code that looks SIMILAR to code that's in a propriatary fork of BSD Licensed software, into their GPL software.

      Maybe it's time for a little common sense here?

      The fact is that Microsoft and SCO have benefitted generously from the Open Source community, especially source code licensed under the BSD copyrights, which allows authors to make derivative works under either proprietary or GPL licenses.

      What I find most amusing, and offensive, is when Microsoft feels that it must defy court rulings and settlements to protect a 10 line change to a 200,000 line BSD based library.

      Microsoft adds little twists to industry standard protocols, implemented under Open Source licenses, refuses to submit those alterations to any standards bodies, refuses to publish even the most basic patches, then claims that it's GPL that is viral and terrible. Microsoft rips off 200 staff-years of development effort then insists that it's 2 staff-weeks of effort is more valuable.

      SCO has enjoyed the benefits of BSD, X11, GNU, and hundreds of other Open Source projects and is now filing a fraudulent lawsuit, claiming that because this Open Source code exists in both Linux and SCO, that this constitutes a violation of SCO's intellectual property rights and contractural agreements.

      That's like coal calling the snow black.

      Rex Ballard

      Another expose on adti (from now on referred to as "The think tank that reeks"):
      http://www.ecosyn.us/adti/AdTI_Villians.htm


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