Linus Torvalds – “Free & Open” hypocrite.

Linus Torvalds –  “Free & Open” hypocrite.

Ok, if you’re a Linux zealot get ready to be pissed off.

The Inquirer reported Friday that Linux godfather Linus Torvalds has sent 90 letters to Austrilian companies demanding payment of $5000 dollars each for use of the “Open and Free” Linux.

It turns out that, like so many Linux bigots, others should give their ideas away, but they wanna get paid for their own.

Linux advocates often espouse philanthropic dialog in order to demonize Microsoft for its “for profit” charter in an attempt to create the “warm and fuzzies” for their business model. (Often in the absence of any technical or financial superiority.)

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get paid for your ideas and there is nothing wrong with wanting to KEEP the rights to your own brain work.

What I think sucks is when some like Linus uses a philosophy to vilify the competition, fuel his own status, and then proves to be primarily motivated by his own financial gain.

As I said before I joined Microsoft, and I continue to say now that I’m on the Microsoft team, repeated business success is the best premise on which to make decisions.

$450,000 should feed Linus for a little while. ($5000 per company from 90 companies.)

I wonder what the next set of bills and lawsuits from the “Free and Open” guys will be.

Good thing those Linux guys aren’t interested in money 🙂

Comments (17)

  1. It seems that the linked article merely indicates that money is being sought in connection to use of the Linux trademark. I don’t think this is fundamentally at odds with the Open Sauce (sic) mindset. It is important to protect brands and a $5000 licensing fee sounds relatively paltry for a brand as powerful as Linux. I certainly don’t think this is a reversal or a betrayal on the part of Linus (besides which he is barely mentioned in the article). Please no flames, I love MSFT stuff. Just trying to be fair here.

  2. shaunbed says:

    Even Free Software Foundation was about money..

    Their original premise was that it is impossible to get people to pay for software being an intangible. They assumed money would come from hardware sales, documentation, and support.

    The idea of ideas on their own being worth something has been a very hard battle. Pirates of The Digital Millenium is a good book for looking at software and copyright law as well as a very interesting read. It is also a fairly quick read.

  3. G. Diggity Dog says:

    Uh oh, I smell a slashdotting coming, along with an army of smelly, sweaty, long-haired hippies chanting about "free as in beer" and "free as in speech" right up until about the time they graduate from college… That is, IF they graduate… many just stay at home in their parents basements trying to figure out why the kernel won’t compile…

  4. Steven says:

    I’m sure you’re already aware of this, but it concerns not the use of Linux itself, but of the "Linux" trademark. The companies in question use the Linux trademark to sell their software and Linux distros. Linus wants to make sure they do this properly, without tarnishing the Linux name.

    Personally, I have rather mixed feelings about this. I agree with the reasoning, just not the method.

    That said, I think use of the word "hypocrite" is rather too harsh.

  5. Way to generalize an entire set of the population based on the actions of one guy.

    Something smells fishy about this and I can’t see Linus having anything to do with this. Besides, Linus isn’t really much of an open source guy. For that you’ll have to talk to Richard Stallman who firmly believes that software should be free as in speech, not just free as in beer as Linus advocates.

  6. Thomas says:

    You didn’t read the fine print. Or just choose to ignore it?

    The fee will range from anywhere between $200 and $5000, and it’s merely there to ensure a certain quality for commercial products using the word ‘Linux’ in their company or product name.

    You’re free to use linux for whatever you want according to the GPL otherwise, just not with linux in the product name.

    Guess you were just *dying* for a reason to strike out at those damned linux zealots eh?

  7. Thomas says:

    Oh, I forgot.

    For what its worth, it also goes to establish the linux trademark, to show that you’re defending it, not just letting people abuse it for their own purposes.

  8. Linux Zealot says:

    <P>"It turns out that, like so many Linux bigots, others should give their ideas away, but they wanna get paid for their own. Linux advocates often espouse philanthropic dialog in order to demonize Microsoft for its “for profit” charter in an attempt to create the “warm and fuzzies” for their blah blah blah blah blah…….." What a Maroon!</P>

    <P>– Joe asks the Linux guy, what exactly is a "Maroon" ? </P>

  9. Garry Trinder says:

    Thomas –

    Please explain to us evil merchants of commercial warez what will happen if I pay up to use the word "Linux" in my product and then produce a crappy product. Who exactly "ensures" a "certain quality" here? The "Linux Foundation" or whatever? What happens if they call me one day to ask for more money? What then?

    Questions like these are par for the course when theorizing about Microsoft’s next evil move, so it’s kind of nice to ask them of a slashbot for a change.

    I realize the necessity of protecting trademarks, and more power to Torvalds if he can make money off his namesake OS. He already made a few millions by selling his gift RedHat stock short before the bubble burst (unlike ESR, who merely gloated about being a millionaire and then found himself holding $4.50 worth of penny stock). But these Gestapo tactics smell like, well, something ya’ll accuse Microsoft of. Isn’t irony great?

  10. Daniel says:

    Looks like you are confused here. Linus has never been an open source advocate because of the money thing. He think open source development is a good engineering environment.

  11. chris says:

    The $5000 for Linux article was misunderstood. Companies are not being charged $5000 for using Linux. The $5000 for Linux is for companies that are developing Linux based solutions, like Red Hat, Novell/SUSE, and others. If a company buys a Linux solution, like webservers or something like that, the OSDL isn’t going to come and charge them $5000 for using Linux. The reason they are charging the money is to keep companies from hijacking the Linux trademark name and using Linux’s credit in promoting a non-Linux product. Also, $5000 is the most they are charging, which is nothing compared to the amount of money the Linux based solution companies make. This helps bring in a little extra funding for OSDL and also keep rogue companies for using the Linux name for something it isn’t supposed to be used for. For the OSDL to come out of the blue, charging companies $5000 for using Linux doesn’t make any sense, that would make a lot of people upset. This would not benefit OSDL in the long run at all, because everybody would just jump ship on Linux. You have to use a little bit of reasoning. You can’t just believe this stuff.


  12. Wayne says:


    It’s funny that people often wonder why I am critical of the pro-MS sect. The above blog-post would be why. I am currently an MCSE, RHCE, and CCIE which proves that I am pretty damned good at taking tests. It also provides insight into my belief that one should give a good look at the overall landscape before purporting to "know" something.

    Trademarks _must_ be policed. Period. Otherwise they pass into public domain. Why would an open-source project not want the name to pass into public domain?

    To protect the principle of the work itself. I wouldn’t want someone to attach a heinous reworking of my project to my name. If they want to munge it, fine, they can besmirch their own name.

    The question was asked as to how quality assurance was guaranteed via trademark protection. It is not guaranteed, but it can be legally enforced. If someone were to produce Crappy Linux, LMI could revoke their license and ask that they instead refer to themselves as Crappix. They could derive value from the Linux and GNU project and sully it with poor choices, but it would no longer be associated with the Linux name.

    Hopefully this elucidates the reasoning behind the "corporate" licensing of the trademark. If you do not like the process, change the trademark law so that it does not require "active policing".

  13. Mark says:

    Sometimes even smart folk demonstrate their bias and ignorance. Trademark dude! Open and free are about the code.

  14. Ron M says:

    You do realize that the license frame on Linus’s car reads:

    "coffee, chocolate, men: some things are better rich."

    There’s nothing whatsoever about the F/OSS that suggests that it condemns solid business practices. In fact, the whole premise behind F/OSS practices is that they produce better software, and provide more value (in flexibility and long term support) to the customers.

    Certainly there are some induals in F/OSS who enjoy doing charity work; but I’d say microsoft employee who wasn’t fortunate to receive their microsoft options before mid 1998 (when first hit it’s current level) certainly cares much less about business and money than the vast majority of open-source businessmen.