Wednesday, March 16, 2005

GPL FUDs itself

For folks like me in the closed-source camp that cringe every time companies like Microsoft go off on a FUD mission against open source, I was disappointed to the see that a prominent member of the open-source community has given his adversaries plenty of ammunition with a childish and ill-conceived stunt. The full story is here, but basically what happened (according to the article) was a guy called Harald Welte, who is a Linux kernel developer, served 13 companies with warning letters because he "claimed that the binary code of the companies' products appears to have used GPL code" (emphasis added).

Serving the warning letters is probably fair enough. If they have violated the GPL license, they need to rectify the situation. But then to go out and publicly name and shame the companies for appearing to do something, without even giving them a chance to respond, and to turn the event into a media circus by doing it at the CeBIT exhibit hall is the type of stuff that will be bought up by sales and marketing folks for commercial offerings for many moons to come. Open source has come a long way, and it is disappointing to see it use these college prank antics. It would be interesting to see the reaction if Microsoft pulled a similar stunt for people that appear to have used pirated software. Maybe someone can have a quite word in young Harald's ear about PR and the like.


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