Microsoft’s Attack on Open Source: Linus Torvalds Replies

A reply from Linus Torvalds about a speech Craig Mundie of Microsoft gave at the Stern School of Business opposing ‘open source’

I asked Linus Torvalds what he thought of Craig Mundie’s speech about open source. His reply:

I guess I’m not all that surprised. The basic argument seems to be that it’s good for the economy to charge for intellectual property, so open source software cannot be good, while Microsoft is the most far-thinking company around and is doing it all for the good of the public.
Gee, what a surprise.

His claim seem to focus on the assertion that research and development is founded on the principles of “the importance of intellectual property rights”. Which is entirely ignoring the fact that pretty much all of modern science and technology is founded on very similar ideals as open source.

When Mundie wants you to think about all the work that companies have done in order to get patents, he also wants you to forget about all the work done by people like Einstein, Rutherford, Bohr, Leonardo da Vinci and a lot of other people who have done a lot more for humanity than most companies have ever done.

And those people did it for the love of the art, not for some petty “intellectual property rights”. Yet Mundie with a straight face claims that those intellectual property rights are the thing that drives science and technology. He seems to think that MS has done more for the US economy than the discovery of the electron ever did.

His “shared source philosophy” is nothing but the status quo for Microsoft, and trying to make that status quo sound more like the open source model. He obviously doesn’t “get” it.

The strength of open source is not the source, but the intellectual property that goes with it – exactly the part that Mundie seems to hate so much. The fact that when you get involved in open source, you get equal rights to be involved. You can be another Leonardo da Vinci, you aren’t relegated to just paying for viewing his works.

I wonder if Mundie has ever heard of Sir Isaac Newton? He’s not only famous for having basically set the foundations for classical mechanics (and the the original theory of gravitation, which is what most people remember, along with the apple tree story), but he is also famous for how he acknowledged the achievement:

“If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants”.

One of the greatest scientists of our time, having done more for modern technology (and thus, btw, for the modern economy) that Microsoft will ever do, acknowledged the fact that he did so by being able to use the knowledge (what we now call “intellectual property”) gathered by others.

Mundie throws all that away, because he wants Microsoft to own it all, and make tons of money on it.

I’d rather listen to Newton than to Mundie. He may have been dead for almost three hundred years, but despite that he stinks up the room less.

Linus

Author: Dan Gillmor

News Service: Siliconvalley.com

URL: http://web.siliconvalley.com/content/sv/2001/05/03/opinion/dgillmor/weblog/torvalds.htm