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November 27 2011

One influence that is often cited by the movement is open-source software, such as Linux, an operating system that competes with Microsoft Windows and Apple’s OS but doesn’t have an owner or a chief engineer. A programmer named Linus Torvalds came up with the idea. Thousands of unpaid amateurs joined him and then eventually organized into work groups. Some coders have more influence than others, but anyone can modify the software and no one can sell it. According to Justine Tunney, who continues to help run, “There is leadership in the sense of deference, just as people defer to Linus Torvalds. But the moment people stop respecting Torvalds, they can fork it”—meaning copy what’s been built and use it to build something else.

[PJ: This is incorrect information. Anyone can sell it. Red Hat, for example, makes a lot of money selling Linux. And if you read the Free Software Foundation's FAQ [ ] on the General Public License, the license to Linux, it says you can sell [ ] the software for money: "Does the GPL allow me to sell copies of the program for money? -- Yes, the GPL allows everyone to do this. The right to sell copies is part of the definition of free software." What you can't do is sell licenses, like the EULAs you get with Microsoft's software that tell you what you can't do with their software. But you can sell the software.] - Mattathias Schwartz, The New Yorker

11:17 AM EST

Copyright 2011