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IEEE.org: Why Microsoft Smears-and Fears-Open Source [Eric Raymond]

Aug 18, 2001, 14:30 (68 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Eric S. Raymond)

[ Thanks to Jaime Alvarez for this link. ]

"Late in March, Microsoft Corp. escalated its war on open-source code by launching a propaganda campaign aimed at top executives. Through speeches and press conferences it painted Linux and related technologies as "un-American" and "a cancer." The language was eerily reminiscent of U.S. General Jack D. Ripper's paranoid monologues about the threat posed by the Soviet Union in the 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Microsoft's intention was to persuade software customers not to dare use or even touch open-source code because it might pollute their vital bodily fluids, forcing all their business secrets and proprietary software into the public domain.

This was, of course, a ludicrous distortion of reality. Open-source software has been the foundation of the Internet since its beginnings. Any organization that uses the Internet's domain name system, Internet e-mail, or the Web relies on open-source software every day. The GNU C compiler is ubiquitous, not just on Linux and other open-source operating systems, but also on Sun Microsystems' Solaris and Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX, as well as on the other closed-source Unixes traditionally used at corporate data centers everywhere. There has never been a single case in which using these essential tools led to disclosure of a corporation's business secrets or proprietary software.

Mightily has the company striven to confuse the use of software with the derivation of software, and all open-source licenses with the one license--the GNU General Public License, or GPL--that mandates that derivative works of GPL'ed code must themselves be issued under GPL terms. Among other things, these terms require that program source code be made available to anyone who requests it. But several other open-source licenses exist that do not impose this condition."

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