back to article Having offended everyone else in the world, Linus Torvalds calls own lawyers a 'nasty festering disease'

Coding curmudgeon Linus Torvalds has gone off on yet another rant: this time against open-source-defending lawyers and free software activist Bradley Kuhn. On a mailing list about an upcoming Linux conference, a discussion about whether to include a session on the GPL that protects the open source operating system quickly …

WTF?

So, to sum up...

Linus Torvalds calls own lawyers a 'nasty festering disease'

"Bradley Kuhn is so incredibly full of shit that this *needs* to be stated openly ... Lawsuits destroy community. They destroy trust. They would destroy all the goodwill we've built up over the years by being nice."

"Lawyers: poisonous to openness, poisonous to community, poisonous to projects."

Seems fair enough to me. I'm not sure even ("his own") lawyers could (honestly) argue with any of that.

So why the rant Reg? Haven't you ever met a lawyer?

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Re: So, to sum up...

I would guess that Bradley Kuhn is trying to become some sort of an important "High Priest" in the community. Having them too involved is a risk hardly worth taking, easily poisonous indeed.

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Re: So, to sum up...

So Linus thinks lawyers are scum. So did Christ and Shakespeare so he is in good company.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So, to sum up...

So why the rant Reg? Haven't you ever met a lawyer?

I'm not Torvalds so I'm going to say this gently: you have clearly never needed one to fight for you, and may suffer a bit from confirmation bias. It helps if you understand how they work.

Ironically, it's not lawyers who can change the sometimes abhorrent/abusive behaviour you see (because yes, some do indeed abuse the system they're entrusted with), but politicians and judges do which is why appointing judges should be done with a lot more care than presently seems to be the case.

If they would start clamping down on lawyers who are clearly taking the piss it could clean up the system, but sometimes they are actually the problem themselves (for once, that one lost his job). That said, the system doesn't offer that many tools for weeding out tools - maybe because (by some amazing coincidence) those who have to take the decisions are lawyers themselves (remember Tony Blair?).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So, to sum up...

I would guess that Bradley Kuhn is trying to become some sort of an important "High Priest" in the community. Having them too involved is a risk hardly worth taking, easily poisonous indeed.

It's a general rule that you ought to distrust anyone who is "speaking up for you" when you haven't asked them to because it means that someone is serving their own playbook and using your name for it. If you come across someone like that you must disabuse them of that notion ASAP, preferably by formally informing them that they do not speak on your behalf, because I give you one guess who will get the blame and problems when the activities of such people go sideways.

Yes, not your "representative" - it'll be you.

It's an old political trick.

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Re: So, to sum up...

I would guess that Bradley Kuhn is trying to become some sort of an important "High Priest" in the community. Having them too involved is a risk hardly worth taking, easily poisonous indeed.

If you don't attempt to enforce the GPL, then you may as well have used the BSD license in the first place. Some people might be fine with that outcome (eg. permissive license proponents), but for the GPL to have any practical meaning in the real world, someone has to bring the legal actions necessary to hold to account those who breach the terms of the license.

Whatever you might think of their personal motives (and I, having followed these issues for many years, think you're completely wrong), Bradley Kuhn and the SFC are doing the dirty, apparently thankless, job that no-one else seems to want to do.

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Childcatcher

Re: So, to sum up...

"So why the rant Reg? Haven't you ever met a lawyer?"

As a self-proclaimed MS-fanbøy, I can only echo your sentiments.

Lawyers are very high on my list, right next to licensed real-estate agents. What list? The one D. Adams mentioned in the guide. First ones against the wall when the revolution came and all that. Marketing people are of course #1 on the list.

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Re: So, to sum up...

ESR and RMS where held up as high priests once. Who gives a fuck about them now? In the grand *overall* view of what Linux has accomplished, they've both done sod all.

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Re: So, to sum up...

Well, the man may be a bit abrasive to people that don't share his implicit views, but reading the context of his comments, I can't say I really disagree with much of what he's said or his reactions. You do have to take some of it tongue in cheek and understand that I doubt he really meant a painful death for ARM engineers, but simply for them to stop doing something particularly idiotic that makes life miserable for coders. We've all muttered "fucking morons" or similar when reading a choice helpdesk ticket, discovering some particular anal fissure of code, or some other WTF implementation in hardware or software that is impossible to fathom, it's just most of us keep our feelings to ourselves to keep our friendships, jobs, and professional relations more or less intact. With his position, he can apparently afford to turn off his filter. That doesn't mean he'd be a lot of fun to work under for some.

This dedication to quality and not bowing to marketing input on things is why Linux (in general) is the most usable and least aggravating operating system these days, admittedly IMHO.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So, to sum up...

As a self-proclaimed MS-fanbøy, I can only echo your sentiments.

Jolly nice of you to exclude yourself from the start from People Who Have A Clue™ - using MS products is sometimes not a matter of choice for all sorts of circumstances, but being a fanboy is - there is no feasible excuse for that one, that's a personal mistake choice.

And yes, in that context I can well imagine a hate for lawyers - with all the court cases Microsoft has lost, they cannot not be a fan. The only positive thing the legal world has done for Microsoft was SCO vs Linux and hanging to FAT patents.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So, to sum up...

We've all muttered "fucking morons" or similar when reading a choice helpdesk ticket, discovering some particular anal fissure of code, or some other WTF implementation in hardware or software that is impossible to fathom, it's just most of us keep our feelings to ourselves to keep our friendships, jobs, and professional relations more or less intact. With his position, he can apparently afford to turn off his filter. That doesn't mean he'd be a lot of fun to work under for some.

That's the price of fame, you can't just go public on anything that comes up in your head, not in the least because it means you're an inconsiderate, asocial f*ckwit.

However, even in that context I'd be less forgiving because (a) if that is your (apparently continuous) internal dialogue, you really need help and (b) it means you have zero consideration for the feeling of others which happens to deprive you of a route and the goodwill to improve matters, which is potentially more brain dead than the original issue.

I've worked with people who made mistakes that took a while to undo (and led to some very firm discussions, but I have those behind closed doors, not in public), but by taking the time to guide them through those and work out where they went wrong they learned. And improved.

Praise in public, discuss in private, debate with care.

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Re: So, to sum up...

"So why the rant Reg?"

Gone from 'Biting the hand that feeds IT' to simply 'Stirring the [sh]IT', knowing it'll upset some folk, please others, keeping the the old mill turning.

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Re: So, to sum up...

Marketing people are of course #1 on the list.

No - just above them should be "Project Managers". They are overpaid worthless parasites. They are the wasps of the engineering world - they have no reason to exist.

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Re: So, to sum up...

"That's the price of fame, you can't just go public on anything that comes up in your head, not in the least because it means you're an inconsiderate, asocial f*ckwit."

I've never got the impression that Linus Torvalds has ever sought fame - in fact, I've got the impression that he doesn't give a fsck about it or, indeed, those people who delight in calling him out about over what he says because he isn't behaving the way that they and you want him to behave. Well tough shit - neither he, nor anyone else, exists purely for your benefit and neither does he or anyone else have to conform to your standards. Stop whinging and get over it.

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Re: So, to sum up...

Um...I don't think Shakespeare [I]did[/I] hate lawyers, and Christ didn't want the competition...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So, to sum up...

As a self-proclaimed MS-fanbøy... First ones against the wall when the revolution came and all that. Marketing people are of course #1 on the list.

So RICHTO/Vogon gets on your tits too?

Strangely comforting!

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Re: So, to sum up...

I expect to be dealing with a lawyer soon.

Her family has been working with my family for generations. She knows her stuff. We meet to get specific jobs done. It's likely to be another will. It's something essentially routine.

This instance does sound more like an outsider trying to stir trouble. It needed lawyers to make the GPL. and I have seen enough cases of tech-industry lawyers straining to understand what they are dealing with. At some point there will be a test case.

Linus may be right about this lawyer, but if he thinks he doesn't need a lawyer at that discussion, he's dangerous too. Law and computer programming each have their own jargon, and I have certainly come across computer programmers with a strange idea of what the law says. You can see the same with other specialised areas. It is perhaps the biggest problem in politics, finding somebody who really knows what they're doing, who you can trust to give you advice.

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Devil

Re: So, to sum up...

Lawyers are a reflection of their clients. They are weapons. They merely implement policy. Those policies are set by the people that hire them.

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Mushroom

Re: So, to sum up...

RMS organized the creation of "the rest of it".

His contributions are not trivial.

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Devil

Re: So, to sum up...

"It's my party, and I will swear if I want to..."

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Re: So, to sum up...

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers"

Henry VI, part 2: Act 4, Scene 2

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Re: So, to sum up...

Wasps taught humans how to make cheap paper, they get a free ride forever for that.

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Re: So, to sum up...

yeah,

attention grabbing but misleading headline, check

half the article then converted into a hatchet job, check

obvious author bias, check.

basic click bait article designed to stir the pot. Pretty poor from El'Reg

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So, to sum up...

Law and computer programming each have their own jargon, and I have certainly come across computer programmers with a strange idea of what the law says

Massive upvote. In my line of work I often have to join the legal and the tech world, and both sides of the equation tend to require a bit of education about each other before communication is even possible, let alone productive. Especially the tech side is very good at talking itself into a belief that a bit of web browsing is enough to understand the law...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So, to sum up...

Not acting now against blatant violations of the GPL could cost the Linux community dearly in the future, where it may actually want to take a company to court.

Because its opponent will show that in the past, the foundation willingly let some corporations violate the GPL and never ensured compliance to it.

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Re: So, to sum up...

I would guess that Bradley Kuhn is trying to become some sort of an important "High Priest" in the community. Having them too involved is a risk hardly worth taking, easily poisonous indeed.

I found it funny that Mr. Kuhn isn't even a lawyer. Perhaps he is actually looking to become the next RMS.

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Re: So, to sum up...

Linus for president.

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Re: So, to sum up...

Indeed, having any person set themselves up as some kind of important "High Priest" in any community -- for example, the kernel developer community -- is a risk hardly worth taking, and as you say, poisonous.

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Headmaster

Re: So, to sum up...@ The Finn

cf Henry VI Part 2, Act 4 Scene 2

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Re: So, to sum up...

Couldn't agree more, the more I read the more I had to agree. Perhaps the register could clarify how (very) potentially loosing a GLP test case could benefit anyone except those scummy, blood sucking lawyers. I'm listening

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Re: So, to sum up...

>>No - just above them should be "Project Managers". They are overpaid worthless parasites. They are the wasps of the engineering world - they have no reason to exist."

Yes, because you do developers really want to spend all your time in meetings with upper management discussing timescales and explaining features, organizing project plans and coordinating releases with Operations and a dozen other things rather than focus on your coding. What's that - you don't? Then who do you think will do all that?

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Barbs?

_Where_ lawyers often get their hooks into you tends to make one really rather testy. As do certain 'contributers' who end up commenting more than contributing. Sweet words can yet be nasty.

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I wonder if he has the same scorn of the lawyers that IBM gamefully paid for to fight off SCO. Nobody in the Linux business would have a pot to piss in if they hadn't had their own 800-lb. gorilla to save them that time.

I would love it if Intel, Red Hat, and everyone else that pays kernel devs to put up with his abuse just forked the kernel and let Linus break his toys and kick and cry by himself in his playpen.

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Anonymous Coward

> I would love it if Intel, Red Hat, and everyone else that pays kernel devs to put up with his abuse just forked the kernel

Effectively Red Hat and Oracle have both done that. They publish their own version of the kernel as a tarball, with their own patches mixed into it, rather than broken out into separate patches / bug fixes / improvements. This is to make it difficult for their modifications to be lifted out and re-used.

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> Effectively Red Hat and Oracle have both done that. They publish their own version of the kernel as a tarball

Haha. Not sure if that's meant to be a joke since the main reason that Redhat produce a monolithic patch of their modifications to the kernel is to stop Oracle from hijacking their work.

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Anonymous Coward

Publishes its own kernel?

The Red Hat (that's two words folks) mantra is "upstream first."

The RHEL kernel is whatever version it claims to be, plus 500 (or whatever the real number is) patches of fixes back-ported from Linus's tree. Red Hat's policy is that No fix – I repeat – no fix is in the RHEL kernel unless it has been accepted into the upstream source. That aside, I'd be amazed if any of the major enterprise distributions aren't doing exactly the same thing.

Red Hat loves Linus, warts and all[1]. AFAIK the notion that Red Hat would fork the kernel and leave Linus behind – just because he's an asshole – is absurd.

[1] Which is kinda sad IMO. I personally think that Red Hat should take a more progressive role in calming Bigus Dickus down and getting him to act more professionally. I personally don't think his behavior reflects well on him or anyone who associates with him. (Guilt by association?) By ignoring his boorish behavior Red Hat is effectively condoning it. Considering how progressive Red Hat is in other areas this one is disappointing.

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There was a BIG difference for the lawyers...

The IBM lawyers were not presuming to defend Linux. They were defending IBM against the baseless attack of SCO.

Kuhn was/is just trying to drum up lawsuits.

Eben Moglen has a different approach. Instead of lawsuits he works with both the developers and the "accused" to eliminate the lawsuit - which is damaging to both parties in a lawsuit.

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"I wonder if he has the same scorn of the lawyers that IBM gamefully paid for to fight off SCO"

Yes, probably. Linus was never trying to take over the world. His agenda was/is different and the project would have survived regardless of the outcome in that case.

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Re: Publishes its own kernel?

What you propose is exactly the last thing that RedHat should do.

There are more than enough people in the Linux world who actually hate RH and all that it stands for.

They take the side of 'How dare RH make money from FOSS' and all that.

I actually applaud RH for making a very successful business from FOSS. They contribute lots back in to the Linux world but the haters seem to ignore that little fact. This especially relates to the kernel.

RH do play by the GPL and all their GPL'd code is downloadable.

If RH were to put a leash on Linus then the uproad would be heard around the world.

Linus is his own man and long may it remain.

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Re: Publishes its own kernel?

RedHat knows they can't leash Linus, so they've done the next best thing: caged him behind systemd.

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Re: Publishes its own kernel?

RH haven't put a leash on Linus, they've just foisted systemd onto the world instead.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Publishes its own kernel?

Talk about synchronicity...

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And if the GPL violator doesn't care to be "educated" nor to bring themselves into compliance with the license? What then?

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And so? Don't get on his lawn unless you know what you're doing, is what I take away from this. With the added benefit of easy column inches for journalists. I especially liked: "insult you, your mother, and your deceased pet hamster". Class.

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Meh

So?

Once again, I'm reminded of a quote I read very many years ago:

"It is futile to expect ordinary behaviour from extraordinary people"

Like him or not, I don't think there is much doubt that Linus is far from ordinary!

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Re: So?

counterpoint: ken and dmr built Unix, the very system he has made a mere clone of, and they managed to build it without being assholes.

counterpoint the 2nd: Eldon Hall, Margaret Hamilton, et al. working on the AGC weren't fucking assholes and nevertheless the Apollo missions were wildly successful.

assholery is neither a necessary, nor sufficient condition for genius. Linus will be bypassed when more people see through the bullshit and understand that Linux succeeds despite him and not because of him.

Oh... mention to him how he wouldn't have anything around the kernel without the FSF and watch him blow steam out of his ears. That can be fun.

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Re: So?

'There's a fine line between genius and madness' is another similar sentiment.

These sweary Linus rants have popped up in Linux news occasionally since the beginning, we never see the background messages or much of the provocation behind them.

He's got a point about Lawyering up over problems, sometimes its akin to getting your neighbour locked up for letting his dog crap on your lawn when it could be sorted out amicably.

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Re: So?

Good counterpoint - except Linux is much more successful than Unix.

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Re: So?

"except Linux is much more successful than Unix."

And the reason? Because all the Unix vendors were perpetually engaged at throwing sueballs at one another. By the time it was sorted out (and probably the reason it was), Linux had taken its place in most of the market.

Point scored for Linus there.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So?

Oh... mention to him how he wouldn't have anything around the kernel without the FSF and watch him blow steam out of his ears. That can be fun.

I like to do the reverse with Stallman who is far further removed from the real world than Torvalds. You can start gently by just calling Linux "Linux" and not "GNU Linux" and work your way up to the fact that the Hurd doesn't seem all that lively compared to Torvald's kernel - by that point he'll either stomp off or his beard will catch fire. This is the short version, of course, if you have time you could insert a firm conviction that the BSD license is better than even the LGPL, just to lengthen the path to self-ignition..

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