Phew, another round of silliness in open source is hitting the fan base. In this article Linus Torvalds has to go to bat defending LMI. LMI is the Linux Mark Institute and the body that administers the Linux brand. See Linus Torvalds owns the Linux brand. When I briefly met with Linus at an INTEL cap get-together, we talked about that. He immediately was on the defensive about the LMI and was quick to add "LMI doesn't make any money, it loses money" (he doesn't know me apparently) which he essentially restates in this article. Wow. Funny bit of history is that back in 2001 I was having this argument with my lawyer at the time about the trademark of Jboss, the brand name. I had actually taken a page out of Linus' book, I wanted the brand to be registered to my name, like linus had linux. To me it was a basic tenet of building the business around it. I told Linus as much, that basically I followed his example but I guess I failed to communicate how grateful I was for this precedent.
So I will now get on my SOAP BOX for a little bit and grab my loudspeaker. Linus doesn't need to apologize for anything, certainly NOT for making money. It is admirable that he stresses the non-profit nature of his LMI company, but I don't know that he owes anyone anything in this case. I don't think it should be a non-profit, not that it is my call. It would be perfectly kosher by me, if not truly admirable if in fact Linus could cash in on that brand, him and his cohort of core developers. Heck charge through the nose for the brand usage. Many people are making TONS of money on your brand Linus and you should definitely get a cut of the value you have created for the industry with your brand. Brands are valuable, even more so in open source. Linus you have built a fantastic asset and you, you cohorts and several generations of yous should roll in dough because of it. I know you made money through other means and managed to cash in on some of the VALUE you have created for the economy at large and I am truly happy you got that to show for it. If it was me, I would build LMI into a branding powerhouse. Make profit out of it Linus, there is nothing dirty about it. Cater to the people that count, your core developers, the people that have truly stuck by you and helped you over the year, you know who they are and they can probably be counted of the fingers of an alien (100 or so?). I am sure they would be thrilled to work on Linux full time with salaries coming from royalties paid to LMI. Do not cater to the naysayers that don't like you or anyone making money. For the sake of FOSS, us at Jboss and professional open source at large, continue taking a stand. By all means defend your brand with the full extent of the law. IP theft is just that, theft.
So I am done with the hard soap box. I will come down now, sort of. The second part of the article also tickled my brain. It is quotes from Florian Mueller. I know Florian through email, I was on the mailing list he set up when he was fighting the EU on patents. Not that I contributed anything (I didn't) but it was interesting to read the progress. Florian is a truly smart guy and credit where it is due, it was actually the mySQL guys that contributed a lot. Florian scored a HUGE point when the EU turned down the patent proposals. It was truly a landmark moment, I was just happy to be part of that mailing list. Back to the article, both Florian and Linus try and educate some of the crowd on the difference between patents and trademarks. Trademarks relate to brands not the technology. Some people call linus an hypocrit, according to the article, for defending trademark when it comes to Linux and criticizing patents when it comes to other people's software. Well that is just ignorance I guess. Freedom of innovation and derivative works as defined by the FSF for example should not be mistaken with a free-for-all on IP. That is dangerous.
Brands are IP and brands drive businesses. Brands are the basis. Florian makes good points about a certain fringe of FOSS that is a little bit to radical on anti-IP stances, and makes reference to the MSFT portrayal of the community at large as irresponsible IP radicals. Our organization and many like ours, stand as living proof that FOSS is maturing and has clear level headed positions on IP. We treat IP, copyright and licensing very seriously, we have defended our IP in the past and will continue to do so. It is not OK to steal, that simple. The point is that much of our society is predicated on the notion of PROPERTY, and the respect of PROPERTY. Theft is not ok. When people abuse Linus' brand without the permission of Linus they are abusing his property. He has every right in my book to pursue them.
In the 60's they had this slogan in france that said "property is theft". On one hand MSFT tries to portray FOSS as a communist plot, on the other some developers scorn Linus for taking legal action to defend his property. The reality of FOSS today is a lot more mature, detailed and complex than these black and white extremes. We understand and RESPECT property, Intellectual PROPERTY is the basis for this new FOSS capitalism, where your capital is not money or hard tangibles assets like factories, but rather intangibles like copyright and brands. It still remains that it is PROPERTY and should be respected as the basis for our business and modus operandi.