Electronics May 6, 2019 Intellectual Property and the GNU/Linux Model Man of High Fidelity is an account of intrigue, passion, despair, and most telling of the evils of a capitalist system run rampant. Armstrong shows that pushing a man enough will break him, which has often been the American way of territorialism and general control. As miserable as this man’s life ultimately was, he did revolutionize the industry which was overrun with iron-fisted monopolies and impenetrable legal agency. In the face of all adversity, Armstrong stood up for his invention, which he so certainly believed he had full right and reign over. This was ultimately his demise— his determination that he had full authority on an idea, a thing. Armstrong believed in the ultra-American idea of ownership, and was no better a profiteer than the counterparts he was fighting against with such determination and fervor. Well after Armstrong’s lifetime of anger and aggression to protect what he asserted as his own, Richard Stallman enters the picture. Stallman was among the first to call themselves ‘hackers’ who had worked in the MIT AI lab during the late 70s, and realized that software existed extremely in a constantly fluctuating space— there was never a time a program wasn’t being changed, updated, rolled back, etcetera. Stallman believed that software should be shipped out with a source code at the forefront, and that ownership was more of a personal badge than a profiteers credentials. For some context, Stallman was working in a lab primarily funded by an organization which would become DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), who had placed limitations on who could use what inside of the lab, perhaps serving the impetus for his ardency towards ‘owned’ software. To put it precisely, Stallman “argues that software users should have the freedom to share with their neighbors and be able to study and make changes to the software that they use” (Stallman Chapter, Various). Stallman’s beliefs culminate in his lifelong and continuous work known as “The GNU Project” (GNU stands recursively for “GNU’s Not Unix!”). At the time, Stallman had been hacking code together using Unix-based machines, as had most other contemporary computer users. To make conversion easy, Stallman would start from the ground up, devising an operating system from the ground up which was Unix-like, making it easier for Unix users to adapt to his project. Despite having worked on operating systems and computer sciences, writing one’s own is no small task. Despite his massive accomplishments, Stallman failed to develop a proper kernel— which presented a problem. The tools were all there, and users could write software/documentation, but there was no means of accessing an executing it all under one roof. This is until Linus Torvals wrote the monolithic Linux kernel, which ran all of Stallman’s tools under one kernel within his operating system. Prior to 1991 when the module was written, these disparate tools were all within the same realm, but could not be implemented simultaneously. Linux provided an entirely shipped system which included the GNU tools and compatibility within. After this, Linux modules and software exploded. Now there was a cohesive computer environment which software could be altered fluidly and freely, without argument over ownership and prohibitive copyrights which could contort a software made into a proprietary system (known as the copyleft concept). “[Copyleft] uses the principles of copyright law to preserve the right to use, modify and distribute free software, and is the main author of free software licenses which describe those terms, most notably the GNU General Public License (GPL), the most widely used free software license”. (Wheeler, David A.) Linux might just be an operating system upon first glance, but it gives hope for a whole entire generation of programmers and even general computer users. Computers nowadays are sold prebuilt and packaged with operating systems (besides building your own desktop), but those are just the start. The beauty of the GNU/Linux license is that Linux can exist on any machine at any given time, and the availability is increasing every day. There are nearly 300 active and usable distributions maintained for public free use, meaning that if you’ve got a system, you can put linux on it. It exists everywhere all at once, and can be modified on the user end to perfectly engineer an environment to your needs. And that’s just the operating system, what runs under the hood, coordinating the user experience. The host of publicly sourced software is nearly endless, by simply logging onto sites like Github, or the AUR (Arch User Repository, a software sharing site dedicated to a certain distribution of Linux). The wide range of software applications is what makes Linux especially unique— anything from simple sound attenuators to enterprise grade image editors are available, for free, with source code not only provided but documented, commented, and made wildly clear that it’s open to interpretation/alteration. To a culture of profiteering and capitalism this may seem absurd— the idea of designing suites of software for public use and giving it to others, but thats just it. In imperialist America, there is no room for the open-source or free, because someone further up the economic caste is waiting to make profit by exploiting generous developers and hobbyists. This politicizes software and development, forcing hacker communities to the fringes, living as technohermits. Open-source software still exists, it’s just seen as fringey, less valid, or more apt to fail, which is often no the case. It is the social culture of monetizing content which has driven GNU/Linux minded developers to exclusion and hermitage. Returning to Armstrong: I believe that whatever brilliance he may have had in designing the various circuits and pioneering Frequency Modulation broadcasting systems, he tarnishes his success by remaining so bullheaded through the eyes of justice. Instead of developing top secret/proprietary content, what if he had provided it to the public record, allowing radio systems to be devised by hobbyists, amateurs, professionals, and students alike? The model Armstrong enforces and this book speaks virtues of is outdated and paleolithic when compared to other modernized systems. Open-sourced free movements are often criticized by the “inherent greed” of humanity, but the GNU/Linux model is a rejection of that. The model shows that people making things to be shared opens the doors to exponentially more variety among products and applications, especially when concerning general knowledge. The beauty of the GNU/Linux model is that products which live within it aren’t seen as products at all, but as things. More specifically, even: as information. The model supposes that there is no right on information, which is to flow freely from one to another. In a sort, the model realizes human interaction and social structures and emulates it, to further explore and experience the marvels that computer use can produce. As we rapidly accelerate towards developing the human experience through artificial intelligence, the notion of ownership further disappears. Artificial intelligence has existed for decades, but has only recently began realizing itself and peering outside of the cave. As machines become more and more self aware/able to reason and recall, they deserve recognition as—at the very least—intelligence. Through history, power has always maintained slaves through culling of intelligence and stifling agency. If the ownership of an intelligence is slavery, then we must relinquish our ownership of designed intellegence. Similar are children, designing their own destinies and aspirations, are examples of intelligence (be it artificial or flesh) deserves its own rights when considered. So why not expand this feeling of morality to general ownership and ownership of applied knowledge, or intellectual property? why hide the schematics behind a paywall, disallowing your neighbor or fellow creative the opportunity to do it the same or better than you? The profiteering culture of Armstrong’s life ended up killing him, and is that not a sign of the venomous results rejecting the idea of open-source? Yes, it’s tragic what happened to Armstrong, but instead of becoming a martyr for intellectual property and proprietary design, why not see him as a casualty in the war against open-source— and fight back. Works Cited Various (1999). "Stallman chapter". Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 1-56592-582-3. Wheeler, David A. "Make Your Open Source Software GPL-Compatible. Or Else". Retrieved November 20, 2008.