APLawrence.com -  Resources for Unix and Linux Systems, Bloggers and the self-employed

Black Markets

© Tony Lawrence, aplawrence.com
Aug 15 22:34:38 GMT 2003

Open source confronts IP issues expresses the opinion that Linux will be challenged by software patents held by small firms. The problem with that is much different than the supposedly copied code of the SCO lawsuit, because you can't always just rewrite code that violates a patent. Quotes like ""I can guarantee that if Linux contains code that's offensive to SCO, the open source community could replace it within weeks" aren't necessarily true when the code is covered by a patent.

If this really is a threat to Linux and Open Source in general, I have to wonder if the whole thing will go underground. My grandparents probably flouted Prohibition as so many others did, and while Linux might not be quite so popular as beer and wine, it might already be too popular to suppress. If Linux became illegal, would there be pirate web sites serving patches? Would there be servers hidden away in closets, masquerading as legal OSes?

The thought of this raises larger issues of intellectual property, commons, and the ridiculous extent of patents and copyrights today. All of that is very well discussed in Lawrence Lessig's The Future of Ideas, which is important reading no matter what happens here.

But there's a larger issue of the dangers of laws that a good part of the general populace will ignore. We have too much of that already: prostitution, pornography, gambling, drugs. One of the major reasons we haven't made cigarettes sales illegal is the very real fear of the enormous black market that would immediately arise. We can't afford that much open criminality.

It may be too early to worry about Linux yet, but you can bet that companies like Microsoft will be looking hard at trying to lock it up with patents. If they succeed, I suspect that there will be black market Linux. Look at how many illegal copies of Windows and Microsoft Office are installed at small to medium businesses. Management often turns a blind eye to that; using suddenly illegal Linux would have to be a much easier rationalization.

Not pleasant thoughts, I know.


More Articles by

Find me on Google+

Tony Lawrence

Click here to add your comments
- no registration needed!

Don't miss responses! Subscribe to Comments by RSS or by Email

Click here to add your comments

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar
Kerio Samepage

Have you tried Searching this site?

Unix/Linux/Mac OS X support by phone, email or on-site: Support Rates

This is a Unix/Linux resource website. It contains technical articles about Unix, Linux and general computing related subjects, opinion, news, help files, how-to's, tutorials and more.

Contact us

Jump to Comments

Many of the products and books I review are things I purchased for my own use. Some were given to me specifically for the purpose of reviewing them. I resell or can earn commissions from the sale of some of these items. Links within these pages may be affiliate links that pay me for referring you to them. That's mostly insignificant amounts of money; whenever it is not I have made my relationship plain. I also may own stock in companies mentioned here. If you have any question, please do feel free to contact me.

I am a Kerio reseller. Articles here related to Kerio products reflect my honest opinion, but I do have an obvious interest in selling those products also.

Specific links that take you to pages that allow you to purchase the item I reviewed are very likely to pay me a commission. Many of the books I review were given to me by the publishers specifically for the purpose of writing a review. These gifts and referral fees do not affect my opinions; I often give bad reviews anyway.

We use Google third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit our website. These companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address, or telephone number) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, click here.

This post tagged: