"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
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