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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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Maybe clarifcation is needed?

by Kiltie In reply to Not a nightmare scenario

Linux is generally regarded as two things:

1: The Linux kernel, written and copyright claimed by Linus Torvald.

2: The various Linux operating systems, which include that kernel.

So specify to which you are referring please?

Linus does "own" the Linux kernel in a very simple sense that isn't disputed, but the operating systems are all over the place.

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by TechExec2 In reply to Maybe clarifcation is nee ...

Since I was responding to your question about Microsoft "buying" Linus and how that might affect things, by "Linux" I mean the Linux kernel. However, the same legal rights I was referring to apply to all software included in a Linux distribution that is licensed under the GPL.

Microsoft cannot buy software that has been GPL'd and take it away from us. The GPL prevents this. This includes the Linux kernel, and all other software "pieces" that are licensed under the GPL and are included in a Linux distribution.

No nightmare scenario. If you're still unconvinced or concerned, I'll expand on this.

GNU General Public License

P.S. However, Microsoft could "buy" Linus and take him away from working on future releases of the Linux kernel, if he chose to be bought.

P.P.S. I misspoke. Linus DOES own his own work on the Linux kernel. But, by licensing it to all of us under the GPL, he cannot revoke the rights granted to us under the GPL. It would have been correct to say that all of us own irrevocable rights to the Linux kernel as defined in the GPL (but that is to damn long!)

edit: Added PPS

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Now that's an idea...

by dawgit In reply to Clarification

a class action case against M$, from say a billion, or so, of us for infringement of 'Our' part of the Linux Philosophy.
huum, I'll take a $ of that.

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Please read my post above..

by drew6235 In reply to How about this scenario?

Not only am I worried, I am scared $h..Less

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What Is Their Legal Theory?

by aad0002 In reply to Does Linux belong to Micr ...

A complete newcomer to open source products, but an
ardent follower of technology news, I have been following
this story and I am completely baffled. Whether you are
talking about software, or talking about any other
product, you claim intellectual rights to property you buy
-- but not to the resources that were used to create the
property. For example, my employer can claim rights to
my company reports or plans and designs for product
lines, but not to the English language that I used when I
wrote these materials. I am really not getting this--
perhaps because I am not really savvy at the economics of

MS made a deal with Novell. Novell is using one type of
open source technology. How does that have any impact
whatsover on other versions of open source software that
have nothing to do wih Novell, or ever had anything to do
with Novell.

My thinking is that this is driven by the very costly daily
fines imposed on Microsoft in Europe (the court at the
Hague) as I write. Millions so far. These are related to
bundling software in the new VISTA system. They are also
facing new challenges from Adobe.

The MS strategy has always been to create a controversy,
invite litigation, drag it out for years, and wear the
oposition down with court costs. Only MS could lose a
Federal case and come out ahead of the game. Yet this is
what happend in the '90's.

Can and would someone please explain to this idiot what
legal grounds MS has for this current controversy.

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its not just the Novell deal

by w2ktechman In reply to What Is Their Legal Theor ...

MS has done several things in the past few years to position themselves better against open source and particularly Linux. Several months ago I read in a local newspaper that MS had just patented (or re-patented, I dont remember) the FAT file system. This was due to excessive usage that MS was not getting paid for, mainly from Linux/Unix environments.
MS holds many a patent, and maybe things were added to Linux before the Patents actually came out. Now they are too common an item in the OS, so MS may be getting ready to start sueing.
But then again, I do not know Patent law, or what MS's true plans are, so I am waiting until more knowledgeable people start getting into it.

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here is a followup question, and it deals with Unix

by DanLM In reply to Does Linux belong to Micr ...

Currently Novell owns Unix

Ok, FreeBSD is a UNIX operating system. Which happens to be my favorite, but that has nothing to do with this question. FreeBSD is also the core OS in Mac OS X.

Could MicroSoft be positioning themselves for legal actions against Mac with regard to the core operating system?


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A brief history of Unix

by stress junkie In reply to here is a followup questi ...

The following web pages briefly describe the development of Unix from a technical point of view. Lots of legal details are missing.

Unix was invented at AT&T Bell Labs.

One of the developers took a temporary teaching position at the University of California at Berkley. He taught his classes about this new operating system.

When he returned to Bell Labs some of the people at UC at Berkley continued to write little utilities for their copy of Unix. This became known as BSD Unix and it was always regarded as genuine Unix. Work continued at Bell Labs. This work eventually lead to AT&T Unix. Thus Unix was forked but both versions were considered genuine Unix.

AT&T was forced to break into several independent telephone companies in 1984. AT&T used this to get into the computer business. They started to sell their version of Unix as AT&T System 5. This was legally the official version of Unix but BSD was also popular.

In 1987 AT&T worked with Sun Microsystems to create a standard distribution. In 1988 other large companies including Hewlett Packard created the Open Systems Foundation to try to establish Unix standards. In response AT&T formed a competing standards group. Both groups created and issued their own version of Unix.

AT&T spun off its Unix division in 19** as a subsidiary that was still owned by AT&T.

In 1993 AT&T sold this subsidiary to Novell.

In 1995 Novell sold its Unix business to SCO. (Novell has recently stated that it did not sell all of its rights to Unix technologies and has threated to sue SCO for claiming ownership of those IPs and maybe some other stuff. I'm still looking for on line refernces to that.)

Bell Labs continued to develop new versions of AT&T System 5.

Here are some notes on the ownership of the Unix brand name/trademark.


Now, it is my understanding that Microsoft was involved at some time. I know that they created and marketed an operating system called Xenix that looked at acted like Unix.

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Thank you Stress Junkie, much appreciated

by DanLM In reply to A brief history of Unix

I knew that ATT was heavily involved in Unix in the beginning, and then branch's started to occur. I think it was the general term Unix as owned by Novel that brought about that question.

Ok, because Novel bought the Unix flavor as originally developed by ATT(the original Unix). Then Microsoft does not have any IP standing with FreeBSD, other then any Linux binaries that are offered in that distribution? Thus, Microsoft can not bring this type of IP law suit against Mac because of that? Other then possible Linux binaries as I said before?

Man this is both scary and confusing.

Again, I am more of a Unix(BSD) then a Linux fan. But I use many products that are cross platform with these Os's that can be very adversely affected by this marriage of the devils.

Thank you again stress junkie, the background/history was appreciated.


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by dawgit In reply to Thank you Stress Junkie, ...

answered my question below also.
(I have forgotten sooooo much, this getting old stuff is rough)

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