June 11, 2004

Does Prentice Hall Really Own Linux?

Bruce Perens writes "A recent report by Ken Brown of the "Alexis de Toqueville Institute"
casts aspersions upon Linus Torvalds as creator of the Linux operating
system kernel. The report attributes ownership of Linux to Prentice
Hall PTR
as publishers of Andrew Tannenbaum's book Operating Systems: Design and
. In the book, Tannenbaum provided the source
for an educational toy OS called Minix.

Mr. Brown is obviously not aware of my role as series editor of the Bruce
Perens Open Source Series
at Prentice Hall PTR. With ten
books published so far,
this series is unique in that not only are the books about Open Source
software, the text of the books is under an Open Source license. They
can be copied and redistributed freely in the same manner as the Linux
kernel - it's even legal to sell the copies. The series has shown that
a publisher can be commercially
successful with Open Source text, as IBM, Red Hat, and other companies
have been successful with Open Source software.

Like all technical book publishers, Prentice Hall is in the business
distributing ideas. They have copyrighted their books, but the express
purpose of those books
is for readers to use the ideas that their text communicates. Before
Linus Torvalds created Linux, one of the ways he learned to build
operating systems was by reading Tannenbaum's book and working with
the Minix source code. Authors and publishers are proud of the role our
books have played in developing the professional skills of Torvalds and
the Open Source developer community. We should not, do not, and can not
claim as our own the creations of the many millions of people who use
our books as a reference in their work every day.

Regarding Brown's other assertions, it should be sufficient to point
out that many of the people he quotes have published detailed
refutations of Brown's text. Most interesting is that of Tannenbaum
himself, parts 1, 2, and 3, that of the young
programmer Brown hired to compare Linux and Minix
, and scientist Illka

A recent title in my series, Understanding the Linux Virtual Memory
, is meant to be used directly by the Linux kernel
developers in
their work, and uses the Linux source code as a reference for
computer scientists. This illustrates the synergistic relationship that
a publisher willing to embrace Open Source can have with the developer
community. I look forward to the continuation of that relationship.

    Bruce Perens


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