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Governments should ban Linux

Linux has been growing in popularity, now enjoying a higher market share than Mac OS. However, I fear that in all the hype and hysteria, the dangers have not had enough attention. We face a real possibility that the future of the creativity will be a barren world: a “tragedy of the digital commons” in which no one will create any content.

The truth is that Linux is one of the biggest threats to human creativity worldwide Some of you will find that statement remarkable, but it is true. As Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer has said, “Linux is cancer.” Ken Brown of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution has said that: “Linux is a leprosy; and is having a deleterious effect on the U.S. IT industry because it is steadily depreciating the value of the software industry sector.”

Moreover, because it is uncontrolled by a single entity, and because the source code is freely available and open to modification by anyone, it is a key way that pirated content can find its way onto the internet. Put a copy-protected CD into a Windows machine, and the copy protection kicks in. (OK you can get round it at the moment by doing things like pressing Shift while you put the CD in, but that’s just teething troubles.) But put a copy-protected CD into Linux and it just ignores the copy protection. The software on Linux to rip CDs does not check whether publishers want their CDs copied. It will be easy to legislate against Microsoft’s and Apple’s tools that allow copying, but Linux is just too uncontrolled.

Fortunately, the US Congress is waking up the the threat of the tragedy of the digital commons. A new bill introduced to the US House Judiciary Committee before Christmas would ban the “analog hole”. In other words, any equipment that can play music or films, like a DVD player or CD player, would be banned from having analogue outputs that could be used to pirate the content. Any outputs would have to use a “rights signaling system”. Of course, certain professionals need access to analogue outputs and of course they would be allowed to have them.

That’s the hardware side. But we will not succeed in fighting the evil of piracy unless we also deal with the software side. At the moment it is too easy to write software that can pirate content. Linux is just an anarchy and we need to ensure that all computer motherboards sold prevent Linux from being installed. We need a licensing scheme, headed by the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization, for all programming tools so that only trusted individuals may use them, and that inappropriate use of them is communicated via the internet to the government. To put it simply, either Linux dies – or the whole of human creativity will become a stagnant swamp. Anyone who disagrees with this is a communist.

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41 comments to Governments should ban Linux

  • tom

    Thank God for that last sentence! I though Samizdata was 0wnZ0r3d!

  • James

    I’m a bit unclear on this article- Is Alex taking the piss?

  • James

    Ahh… I’ve re-read things. It seems he is… :D

  • Lol. You had me for a while. I thought for a second that you were taking “vulgar libertarianism” to a new level.

  • James,

    How on earth did you miss the approving quote from Steve Bulmer without having a little inkling of tongue-in-cheekness….

    A brilliant parody: almost worthy of Swift.

  • James

    I may have dropped the ball last time about the “website” thing, but I got this one.

    Maybe living in the U.S. is sapping my sarcasm powers. Glad to see they’re not completely gone.

  • I’m a bit unclear on this article- Is Alex taking the piss?

    Now whatever would make you think that?

  • Verity

    James – How could you have had a moment’s doubt? This is a blog of robust libertarian values! The words “government” and “ban” in the headline should have alerted you …

  • Isaac

    Either this is the most ignorant thing I’ve ever read, or a beautifully crafted parody. Either way, you’ve got me hooked to your site because I want to see the development of this.

    I’m a newcomer and I’m still not accustomed to your style of thinking, so I’m not sure how to take this…

  • Jake

    Even of though the entertainment industry has given hundreds of millions of dollars to the Democrats over the years, it will not pass.

    All of the electronic manufacturers, Apple and Microsoft would be against this bill as it limits future development and sales of devices not yet invented.

  • James

    Hmm… There seems to be another James. This could get confusing!

    Anyhow, I wasn’t too certain of the tone of the article- I think Alex has been associated with being sceptical about the OS community in the past, hasn’t he? And I tend not to associate parodying and satire as one of the characteristics of this blog, so… I made a mistake in the first instance! :P

    The title did give it away a bit, but I think there are many titles on here that are facetious, aren’t they? :D

  • Well, than I am proudly stating that I am now officially a Communist. I use Linux and I have for about a year. We open-source people don’t have a need for piracy. We don’t pay for most of our software because we believe that there is a better alternative. In fact some Software is illegal in the United States because of those issues you discussed. Why can’t we just all be friends and share all our hard work like we open-source guys?

  • bob mologna

    Remember back when the idea of suing McDonalds for making people fat seemed like a funny joke because it was so ridiculous?

    You may have inadvertantly started something here…

  • Jaakko Haapasalo

    The bit about banning analog outputs was priceless. Thank you, this post made my day. I must admit you had me fooled, too, until about half-way into the post.

    (I make my living writing software for the Windows platform – not at all grudgingly – and I love Linux. I think there is room for both in this world.)

  • TUN

    I freely admit after reading the first few sentences I have been so upset by that “evil story” that I planned to post a very ugly comment here.

    After reading all sentences and the first comment I stood corrected – thankfully I wasn’t the only one nearly to be fooled:-)

    Thanks for this witty article.


  • Oh my god, I nearly flamed like id never flamed before, before realising it was a (painful) spoof. In all seriousness though, the possible advent of software patents (recently rejected by the EU – phew!) may one day make this, if not reality, not far from it.

    I love Linux, and coming from a libatarian point of view, it allow me freedom to do what I want with my own products, playing DVD’s under linux is illegal – even if I own them! I am in the current stages of planning a business using Linux/GNU software, something I could no undertake with the closed M$ offerings.

  • Brian

    Is this a joke? I sure hope so. If not, thats the most ignorant opinion I have ever read. Especially this … we need to ensure that all computer motherboards sold prevent Linux from being installed” and the part about the programming tools. Are you retarded?

  • James

    Brian obviously hasn’t cottoned on to EVERYBODY ELSEs comments! :P

  • When this showed up on the feed, I did a double take and came here more than a little worried. It wasn’t until the very last sentence that I got it.

    He says, sat on his Windoze PC thinking he really ought to get the dual boot worked out…

  • I know I’ve mentioned it before, but the Open Rights Group has been set up to fight the worldview ably summarised by Alex here. They just started accepting donations, so do go and be come one of the founding thousand.

  • I couldn’t read the article at first. I am using Ubuntu 5.10 and had to recompile my kernel with the following setting.

    Microsoft_Overlord_Powers == 0

    Then everything worked fine.


  • Julian Morrison

    HTML and CSS currently support features to help the less able, such as hints for the screen-readers used by the blind. I propose the introduction of a new CSS attribute on any tag, “mood” with the values “humour”, “irony” and “serious”. So for example, the article could be contained in a <div style=”mood: humour,irony”></div>. This would be a great help to those with no sense of humour. Browsers could at user option render such content delimited by a border of dancing clowns, custard pies, and other such traditional symbols of hilarity.

  • I AM rather disturbed by the increasingly common attempts by the Open Source movement to get government funding for their development efforts.

  • John Blackburn

    I’m visiting Samizdata for the first time. It was nearly the last time too, as I started by reading this piece, which had me 100% fooled. In fact it nearly caused me to become angry, and you MUSTN’T – MAKE – ME – ANGRY.

  • The test of genuinely good satire is to almost pass for real in a Modest Proposal sort of way, and considering the sheer arsedness of RIAA and MPAA, not to mention The Mouse, I wouldn’t be surprised if they DID try to forcibly turn back the clock on recording technology.

    But think of all the opportunities for ahem, overseas entepreneurs with a flair for the black market and no respect for stupid laws. They’d be doing handsprings just thinking about it.

    Brilliant stuff!

  • Beautifully done. But I’m not so sure it won’t turn out to be prophetic – while Linux will most likely survive, the bit about banning analog output on a/v kit is all too likely to become the reality in not too many years time.

  • Kim du Toit

    “ban analog output”…

    Tee hee.

    Let me know when you have such a restrictive device available for the Body Politic, and I’ll buy one (if there isn’t a free Linux copy around).

  • Turnip Juice

    The Problem

    As a knowledgeable techie, entrepreneur and Reaganite – I can say this with certainty: These threats — to creativity, the marketplace, the encroachment of software-socialism — are due entirely to the “Linux” (pedantically, GNU/Linux) license … the GPL.

    Ballmer is referring to the GPL in the “cancer” quote.

    Ken Brown is almost certainly referring to the implications of widespread GPL adoption. Linux itself is “Just A Kernel”. In this case, Ken Brown can only be talking legal/business (licensing) and NOT technology (a heap of code).

    I agree with Alex, however, it is the GPL specifically: THE GPL IS COMMUNIST.

    The GPL forces you to release changes you make to the codebase of a product. When you distribute your product, you must also distribute the source code. All derivatives must be GPL themselves – hence “viral” and “cancerous”.

    The Answer


    The BSD license. Do what smart capitalists would do with something valuable – sell it. BSD-licensed code doesn’t force you to give away your valuable derivative codebase. You can compile it, sell it, hide it, whatever you damn well like.

    Case in point: Mac OS X. It’s core is called Darwin, a FreeBSD userland. Because it is BSD-licensed, Apple had every right to take the code, do whatever they wanted to do with it in-house and then sell the compiled binaries (without requiring them to give away the source code). Remember Bill Gates rescuing Apple in 1997? Sure, Apple wouldn’t be as big as it is now without the iPod — but, it wouldn’t exist at all if it weren’t for the BSD license. Steve Jobs coming back onboard -> Mac OS X … made possible by the BSD license.

    See also: the TCP/IP stack for Windows NT (MS’s most stable tcp/ip stack) – widely believed to be from NetBSD which is, of course, BSD-licensed.

    If this isn’t capitalism, I don’t know what is.

    Is FreeBSD/NetBSD/OpenBSD stable/reliable/mature? The BSD Unices are nearly as old as UNIX itself. LLLinux only started in 1991.

    All the hype is in the wrong direction. Linux is bullshit… and dangerous.

    Actually, I hope these LLLinux geeks never catch on. BSD is tech’s the best kept secret!


  • Julian Morrison

    Turnip, didn’t you know, BSD is dead?


  • LOL

    I’ll never be able to read a SamizPost without a sneaking feeling I’m being led astray…

    Nice one Alex.

  • warmi

    The problem with BSD is that not many people work on it anymore.
    Linux is sucking all the oxygen and thus it gets all the cool features.

    Sure, if you want to run a stable server , BSD will do just fine but if you want to use it as a desktop machine – well, scratch that. Using anything with X as a desktop machine is just stupid.

    Never mind.

  • I´m a communist:)
    I´m a red, red ,red communist. :)
    I use linux.
    I´m a terrorist at all.
    Why are going to win this battle and the war, don´t forgive this. By careful :).

  • another thing , if a can´t:

    “Alas, but for obscure reasons Mozilla, Mac and Linux users shall not harness to power of the push-button formatting options and shall therefore compose basic html with their bare hands. Yet Mozilla, Mac and Linux users shall not fear, for we shall reveal forthwith the mysteries of Basic Html:”

    is bacause the disigner of this portal aren´t very clever. And the don´t like reading the standars :).
    Be happy :)


    No-one is forced to use GPL licenced software and since when has there ever been a voluntary form of communism?

    The vast majority of potential uses for linux or similar, are where the user does not have any need to change the code. So the GPL is irrelevant to most potential users.

  • Actually communist will take away any freedom you have. See the Chinese internet blockade. http://www.clearharmony.net/cat/c1134/c1134.html

    Linux is about Freedom, this is why I love Linux :D

    Be very carefull when you use these two terms togheter, they are very contradictory.

  • Eric E. Coe

    First of all, IANAL, but I have *read* the GPL, and it is very clear that it requires release of the altered sources only if the altered program is released to the public (sold or otherwise). This prevents the public from having to deal with a binary program without the new sources, i.e. it keeps the code open. From the GPL preamble:

    To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that forbid anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to surrender the rights. These restrictions translate to certain responsibilities for you if you distribute copies of the software, or if you modify it.

    For example, if you distribute copies of such a program, whether gratis or for a fee, you must give the recipients all the rights that you have. You must make sure that they, too, receive or can get the source code. And you must show them these terms so they know their rights.

    We protect your rights with two steps: (1) copyright the software, and (2) offer you this license which gives you legal permission to copy, distribute and/or modify the software.

    It prevents the entity (corporation or individual) involved from freeloading on the existing work done on the code and taking the altered version private. With the initial developer’s release of the code under GPL, and subsequent developers who contributed to the code, knowning that it is GPL, these copyright holders (who often seem to be forgotten in discussions of GPL) set in stone the destiny of this code and it’s uses, as is their right, for the term of the copyrights they hold. (As a practical matter, active OSS projects are constantly accumulating new changes, and therefore more recent copyright holders. Abandonded, forgotten, obsolete or long-stable projects are unlikely to be areas that there would be any profit in further private development. I doubt that the already-generous copyright term will be a problem for GPLed code in the long term. )

    However, if the altered program is only used in-house, then one need not release the changes made. Making private changes to the sources is just another “use” of those sources, and not a violation of the GPL. Microsoft likes to obscure that point in their FUD.

  • anti redmond

    you are so f*** stupid …….if you don’t like linux, don’t use it and f*** off whit this kind of shit ! go and have a beer and peace to you all, sto arguing about this supid so called threats, the only threat is that linux will take place of windows and bill gates will die por =))

  • silviu

    damn thats funny :D , had me fooled the first time

  • asus phreak

    Clearly “anti-redmond” is a moron who did not bother to read a single one of the comments. ITS A SATIRE YOU CRETIN! It even has a category listed as HUMOR

  • The Gizmo

    mr ballmer & co. know that they’ll gonna lose; i wonder how low they’re gonna fall…

  • expert

    If Linux is so damn great, why is the most un-user-friendly piece of software in existence? And why are linux users so fu**ing touchy when someone questions how good it is? Take a pill, calm down, and have a sensible, civil conversation. Linux has some of the worst GUI design I have ever seen. Shouldnt software be designed with ‘ease of use’ taken into consideration? When it comes to designing software I and many top software design experts, consider usability to be the top requirement. So why has linux got such incredibly poor usability?? Sort it out linux developers, then maybe linux will become a far more popular choice of operating system.