Crazy Richard Stallman’s temper tantrum over GPLv3 threatens to split Linux into two warring camps. Forbes.com has the skinny:
Despite that utopian anticapitalist bent, Linux and the “open-source” software movement have lured billions of dollars of investment from IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat and other tech vendors, plus corporate customers such as Wall Street banks, Google and Amazon and Hollywood special-effects shops. IBM has spent a billion dollars embracing Linux, using it as a counterweight to the Microsoft Windows monopoly and to Sun Microsystems’ Unix-based business.
Now Stallman is waging a new crusade that could end up toppling the revolution he helped create. He aims to impose new restrictions on IBM and any other tech firm that distributes software using even a single line of Linux code. They would be forbidden from using Linux software to block users from infringing on copyright and intellectual-property rights (“digital rights management”); and they would be barred from suing over alleged patent infringements related to Linux.
Stallman’s hold on the Linux movement stems from the radical group he formed in 1985: the Free Software Foundation. The Boston outfit, which he still runs, is guided by a “manifesto” he published that year, urging programmers (hackers) to join his socialist crusade. The group made Stallman a cult hero among hackers–and ended up holding licensing rights to crucial software components that make up the Linux system.
Stallman hopes to use that licensing power to slap the new restraints on the big tech vendors he so reviles. At worst it could split the Linux movement in two–one set of suppliers and customers deploying an older Linux version under the easier rules and a second world using a newer version governed by the new restrictions. That would threaten billions of dollars in Linux investment by customers and vendors alike.
It seems to me that the Forbes article is fundamentally correct. Stallman is a nutcase, and he’s trying to force the Linux community to do things his way, on penalty of losing the GNU tools. Stallman is trying to impose his concept of DRM on the Linux community, and a heck of a lot of very important people aren’t buying what he’s selling. So this will inevitably lead to a split between Stallmanized code and non-Stallmanized code.
It’s unpleasant to think about this, but it’s very likely to happen. Nobody can get Stallman under control, and he has enough fanatical followers to cause a serious split.