Re[2]: Gov't Loves Gov't

Guru George (
Wed, 28 Jan 1998 21:57:55 +0100

On Wed, 28 Jan 1998 09:26:21 +0000
Charlie Stross <> wrote:

>On Tue, Jan 27, 1998 at 09:39:55AM -0800, Peter C. McCluskey wrote:
>> (Guru George) writes:
>> >What would happen if people went against the conditions of use (or
>> >whatever it is you see that's pasted all over linux when you first come
>> >across it)?
>> Not much. The violater would get harrased a bit, and wouldn't derive
>> much benefit from the violation.
>It actually goes a bit further than this. In 1996, somebody or other
>who nobody had ever heard of took out a trademark on Linux(TM), then wrote
>to various companies (SSC and Yggdrasil spring to mind) who make their
>living selling Linux books, distributions, or software demanding a pay-
>off for use of the name.
>With the approval of Linus Torvalds, and a pro bono attorney, SSC,
>Yggdrasil, Red Hat, and most of the other companies making money out
>of Linux started a lawsuit against the parasite, and tried to get
>the trademark invalidated.
>The outcome was that before the case came to court the opportunist
>folded, and the trademark was assigned (by mutual consent) to Linus
>Torvalds (who (a) invented Linux, and therefore deserves to hold it
>if anyone does, and (b) who has no intention of using it to make
>This is an interesting case insofar as it shows commercial entities
>_defending_ a common good (free access to the name "Linux"). The Linux
>industry, foetal though it might be at present, seems to have
>accomodated itself to the "bazaar" model of software development just
>when the rest of the computer industry is at the opposite extreme.
>Moreover, those companies -- even the most aggressively corporate
>ones, like Caldera -- are putting back freeware into the communal
>pot (RedHat's RPM system, Caldera's COAS and PPP code). They're treating
>their field as a positive-sum game, where cooperation results in greater
>growth than defection and it therefore pays dividends to give software
>away for free -- because, of course, the more Good Stuff there is in
>the free Linux systems, the more people will use it, and the more
>the businesses employing them will be inclined to pay for the commercial
>support packages aimed at businesses.
Seems to me you've proved my point. The parasite couldn't parasitise
because there is a functioning system of private property rights, and
people were willing to defend the *real* ownership of Linux, which I
think was also Warrl's point.

The fact that the real owners and creators have chosen to make their
product freely available is not so important. The fact of ownership is,
and that is the foundation of a capitalist system. Markets and money are
just one way (the most efficient way for people who are strangers and
not-necessarily-enthusiasts!) of doing economic exchanges. (But granted
pro-capitalists sometimes blur the distinction between the system of
private property rights and the system of market exchange.)

Guru George