In a completely unsurprising move The Alexis de Tocqueville Institution's Kenneth Brown is trying to discredit OSS again.
After his miserable, failed attempt at discrediting the roots of Linux by claiming it was copied from Minix (a claim disputed even by Minix' author Tanenbaum) Brown is trying a fresh approach:
Brown finds it "intriguing" that many open-source contributors work for large IT companies. "Every day, an untold amount (sic) of employees beholden to strict employee/invention/intellectual property agreements, in their spare time (and even during work-hours) freely give away ideas, code, and products to open source projects," he writes. This opens up questions around the legal ownership of contributions, and could even open an avenue for a "disgruntled employee" to give away company secrets by contributing them to open-source projects, the report argues.
Interestingly, Brown conveniently "forgets" that a lot of these people are paid specifically for the purpose of developing contributions to open source.
He also ignores that this is much more likely to be an issue with proprietary software:
A disgruntled employee that releases code to the public will risk getting discovered immediately, because he/she is spreading the code, well, in public.
A disgruntled employee that goes to a shady competitor may get away with it, and may even get rewarded.
Interestingly enough there have been several lawsuits regarding the latter, but I've yet to see one where the former have been proven.
And the only company currently in active litigation over contributions to OSS, namely SCO, was nearly laughed out of court by the judge, who sardonically pointed out their complete lack of evidence so far. SCO even backtracked on their original copying claims.
Another point that might perhaps be lost on Brown: Most of these strict employee/invetion/intellectual property agreements do not prohibit you from contributing what you do on your own time on your own equipment, and in many jurisdiction any clauses to the contrary aren't even legally binding on an employee even if they sign the agreement.
However, all of this is moot as long as Brown isn't able to show even a single example of what he claims must surely be rampant.
I think Santa Claus robs thousands of old ladies every year, honest, so it must be true even if I don't have a shred of evidence.
In any case, what I found most interesting with this article was the title and subtitle:
Think-tank report lays into Linux Guess what? Organisation is funded by Microsoft
... and the ending paragraph:
Brown's 2004 report alleged that credit for the origin of Linux should go to projects such as Minix, authored by Andrew Tanenbaum. That report drew criticism from many quarters, including Tanenbaum himself. "My conclusion is that Ken Brown doesn't have a clue what he is talking about," Tanenbaum wrote in a web posting at the time.
With a packaging like that, I doubt too many people will take Browns' mindless rants too seriously.