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Does Linux belong to Microsoft?

By Kiltie ·
In a recent Q&A session, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer declared his belief that the Linux operating system infringes on Microsoft's intellectual property.

I won't post any links, the tech news is buzzing about it.

Is not paying SCO to sue IBM and buying out Novell not enough?

(these aren't my comments, I've been just reading news, but i am concerned.)

Any comments folks?

EDIT: an obvious typo

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Of course you can Dan

by Kiltie In reply to Can I ask a question?

The whole purpose of this thread is to ask questions and get peoples opinions.

Although by now, I see some major blogs and articles appearing, so this may be shadowed. Just wait until ZDNet and people like Ed Blot get a hold.

One of the key questions I have is about the sheer muscle power of M$s financial and legal capability.

With such power, what is stopping them?

Why haven't they done it already?

I suspect the answer, but I am an outsider to the US system.

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That is exactly the issue. Good question.

by stress junkie In reply to Can I ask a question?

If the Linux operating system contains code that violates Microsoft IP then its validity under GPL is put at risk. Mind you most of Linux is based on Unix. On the other hand the ownership of Unix passed around quite a bit in the 1980s and Microsoft owned Unix for a while. SCO owned Unix for a while. Currently Novell owns Unix. But I think that Microsoft is interested in those technologies that have been replicated by Linux developers over the years without permission. I don't know exactly which features are of primary interest to Microsoft. I looked aroung a bit but I could only find vague statements from Microsoft that did not name specific patents or features.

Edit: See my post entitled "A brief history of Unix" for more accurate information. I did some research from credible sources when I wrote that post.

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Of course you can ask a question :-)

by TechExec2 In reply to Can I ask a question?

There are no stupid questions, especially when it comes to something as arcane as intellectual property law. Here is my best attempt at a short answer to a complex subject:

"The GPL which covers most distributions. Is this license binding to the point that MS can not claim ownership?"

No. Microsoft will never own "Linux" (kernel and all other software that we call "Linux"). The GPL will not be voided by a patent suit/win by Microsoft. The GPL keeps Linux free (as in freedom), but it does not protect anyone from a patent lawsuit. And, it does not protect Linux from patents. If MS wins a patent suit in court, it can demand the offending code be removed from Linux and/or monetary damages from the loser in the case. It will be up to the judge.

What does this really mean?

What this really means is unclear. Ordinarily, a patent infringement suit is between two companies and that is it. With Linux, MS will have to sue EACH Linux user and distributor to get satisfaction from each one individually. There is no single owner/infringer. Such a thing is impractical. But, MS could use RIAA-style tactics to intimidate people into paying monies to Microsoft or buying Novell's Linux, etc. This could happen. Microsoft clearly does not care how many people hate it.

Software patents are being used like nuclear weapons. Patent holders don't have to actually use them (sue) to get others to do something (pay monies). So, it is possible that others with patent portfolios such as IBM or Redhat could sue Microsoft over Microsoft's own alleged patent infringements to get MS to back off on Linux or settle.

Novell, who is also has a large patent portfolio, chose to make a side deal for itself and its own paying customers, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. Novell could have teamed up with RedHat and others to present a united front against Microsoft. Novell is a weasel.

The bottom line

The bad news: There is going to be a fight. It will likely get ugly. Microsoft may end up getting money from Linux users, directly or indirectly.

The good news: Linux will not be killed by Microsoft. The GPL will not be voided. Some lucky people will be able to continue using Linux with impunity depending on which country they are in (not in the U.S.).

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Forking the kernel

by Tig2 In reply to Not a nightmare scenario

Isn't that what took Unix down all those years ago? I can't see that as being a good thing but exactly what is indicated by the Oracle move.

Like Kiltie, I am busily reading everything I can find. I would like to say I am keeping an open mind but must also admit that I am concerned. I want to have the freedom to select software based on my needs and not necessarily someone else's perception of my needs.

This will be interesting to watch.

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No forking

by TechExec2 In reply to Forking the kernel

My forking comment was just in response to Kiltie's question about MS buying off Linus Torvalds. That's just not going to happen IMHO. Even if the kernel were forked, it would not kill Linux. There is a lot more to Linux than the kernel. And, there is always the BSD kernel, etc. This is just not a problem.

I'm not worried about this. I think the worst case is that some of us will have to start paying someone something for each copy of Linux we run. But, Linux itself will continue otherwise unaffected. Linux will be available and free (as in freedom), but no longer free (as in free beer). The problem is that the Linux distributors WANT us to pay them, even defiant RedHat. So, in that respect, they are on the same side that Microsoft is. They just don't want to share the monies with Microsoft (except for Novell the weasel who made a side deal). Once again, this is just the worst case scenario as I see it. It may play out differently (better for us).

People outside the U.S. and out of the reach of Microsoft will never have to pay for Linux. That means there will always be a freely downloadable distribution somewhere. But, you may have to avoid downloading it in order to avoid Microsoft's RIAA-style lawsuits on you (which I think may happen).

Linux will survive this. The joy of getting it for free may not. But, it will likely be a lot cheaper than Windows, so there is still something to look forward to! :-)

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Read the other string

by dawgit In reply to No forking

I still can't see straight (or I'd list it here) It's an interview with Mr.Gates:
"BSD used to be...."
That's what is in the article.
Sad day.

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BSD is still free

by TechExec2 In reply to Read the other string

BSD is still free. My guess (?) is that Bill G. was referring to BSD being free in the past tense because BSD came before Linux and has largely been supplanted by Linux as the most popular free version of Unix.

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I believe that BSB came as a resuly of a LInux lecture,

by Kiltie In reply to BSD is still free

But I'll let others pick this up, as I am waiting for my Significant other to get in touch, what Col calls SWMBO

And I obey, really obey, on bended knee if needed.

You may call us guys silly, but we really do know who rules the world, you girls, of course).

(until you get a computer problem that needs fixing)

---- here I go, sticking my neck out, waiting for the Axe to fall ----


An offering of Peace: (We appreciate that you let us think we do from time to time ;-) )

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Kiltie, you be nice!

by Tig2 In reply to BSD is still free

Some of us geek chicks actually fix MEN'S computers.

So there!

We celebrate the annual turkey eating day in the US tomorrow so I am feeling kindly disposed to my fellow man just now. Lucky for you! :)

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hehe I was being nice

by Kiltie In reply to BSD is still free

You know full full that was tongue in cheek.

*** grin ***

I was training my Significant Other (My fiancee, if you are old fashioned, like me) to be a computer guru, but she left in August for San Francisco for a major medical op. She is getting close now, no longer trashing machines with random key presses, but she sure as **** types faster than me!!!

I am a mere two fingered typist from the old Fortran days on IBM Mainframes and VAX/VMS.

In those old days of Yore, I believe Windows didn't exist.

I have a couple of PC problems, you are welcome to try an fix them. As if women could (Putting his head firmer in the noose as the Guillotine's poised)

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