Posted by: cochinblogger | May 21, 2010

Linus Torvalds on Software Piracy and Greed

I’m reading with great interest Just For Fun, the autobiography of Linus Torvalds, the inventor of Linux. It’s a wonderful book, giving the reader an insider’s insight into the life and thinking of a maverick. I’m also learning something about his country, Finland. One little oddity: Finland is like India in that it is customary in both countries to remove your shoes before entering a house. In India, the reason is dust and mud (if it’s raining), and in Finland I think it’s the slush after a snowfall (but what about other countries where it snows?).

Linus famously decided not to commercialize his brainchild. When asked why ever not by the journalist he has written the book in partnership with, he attributes it partly to having been brought up by Communist parents, and to the influence of his maternal grandfather, who was a scientist. In fact, Linus’s introduction to the computer came via his grandfather, who allowed him to sit on his knee and type in his programs for him, a kind of child secretarial assistant.

I’ll probably have more to say about the book later, but for now, think about this excerpt from the book:

“Say you have a person who earns $50 a month. Should you expect him or her to pay $250 for the software? I don’t think it’s immoral for that person to illegally copy the software and spend that $250 for five months’ worth of salary on food. That kind of copyright infringement is morally okay. And it’s immoral — not to mention stupid — to go after such a “violator.”

“Greed is never good.”

I think that’s only common sense. In any case, I can see for myself that with rising income levels in India and falling software prices, software piracy is decreasing, though I have no data to back that gut feeling.

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  1. it is customary in Sweden too, Finland’s neighbour with similar weather, to remove one’s shoes upon entering a residence.

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