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.