Conservatism, Linux and the ‘Net

If you think Linux geeks make too much of a big deal over what operating system people use, this article might change your mind. It manages to weave together cross-media ownership, spectrum licensing, Linux and the Internet in a way that is not just cohesive, but frightening.

The author doesn’t say much that is new to the tech community, but draws together a number of separate threads that have a powerful cumulative effect. Since the dot-com crunch it has become all-too-easy to forget the potential we once saw in the ‘net, as a totally free and open marketplace of ideas, products and raw information, with all the power concentrated at the edges, in the hands of the general public. Anyone could make a server, plug it in, and run their own online store.

Recent moves by the major media players, who have blindly swallowed most of the information ecosystem in the US, indicate that they are gradually shifting the tide back to the one-way-pipe days of TV and radio. At the same time, they are attempting to return copyright law to something like that of the medieval Stationers’ Company, which for a time controlled almost all printing and copyrights in England. They seem to have conveniently turned their backs on the very laws and free market that spawned them in the first place.

Linux is mentioned mostly as a positive result of the new, empowering, Internet-driven market place, even while SCO tries to drive back its adoption through patents and contracts for technologies that it never developed, and in all likelihood doesn’t truly own. It is a striking example of the clash between the the ‘net as a level playing field, and the relatively new notion of “Intellectual Property”, as practised by traditional companies attempting to stem the new wave of openness. To an extent, I sympathise with companies like SCO – they’ve had their business model whipped out from under them. However, in the long run, I strongly believe projects such as Linux will be of benefit to the IT industry and society as a whole, by providing a ubiquitous set of basic services on top of which applications can be built, without restricting use to those with the cash to pay for commercial equivalents – provided the ‘net stays free enough for development to continue.

Anyway, you should read it if you care about keeping the ‘net free 🙂