Linux and the Amazing Expiring Copyright
Copyright, love it or hate it, it's a fact of life in much of the world, especially here in the US. The General Public License is based on the protections and powers of copyright. That the owner of a property may decide how it can be used in certain areas... but only so long as they own the copyright. Once it expires the work enters the public domain and all are free too benefit from it and use it as they see fit.
Linux too will one day have its copyright expire and enter the public domain... however this might not work as quickly as you'd expect.
According to a few sources, Linus was born on December 28th, 1969, and with a little math from our friends at DeathClock.com, I would estimate (very scientifically of course) his death to be on or around October 9th, 2042, and plus 70 years (assuming no new copyright extensions), by my estimate on Sunday October 9th, 2112 Linux will enter the public domain.
Remember, you heard it here first!
But wait... it's not quite that simple is it, Linux is no longer just one persons creation, it started that way sure, but over time many persons have contributed code to the kernel. Each of those modifications constitutes a derivative work, each getting its own protection under copyright law.
So you could say that Linux benefits from a near perpetual copyright.
Most likely the only version that we (more likely our children) will ever see enter the public domain is the original version that Linus Torvalds wrote entirely himself and had announced on comp.os.minix back on October 5th, 1991.
As readers of this blog are no doubt aware, I am pro Microsoft in most ways, this opinion of course is not universal. Many see them as the ‘evil empire' and the chief enemy of the open source software movement and Linux in general (see /. for almost limitless examples).
How could Microsoft use the impending expiration of the Linux copyright to their advantage? Two words: time travel.
In theory, they could beat this by simply breaking out one of their secret time machines (with their pocket book, why just have one?) and kidnapping Linus in order to take him back in time 70+ years, just to kill him. Upon returning to the present day Linux would be public domain.
Of course... doing so would only free up the original version of Linux... any later versions with contributions from others would still be protected as derivative works and the only way to completely free up the different versions into the public domain would be a full scale slaughter of every kernel developer who would be first transported to the distant past... which is not too likely, even for Microsoft.
Just an interesting thought to consider, even if it is all purely theoretical.
Addendum: To the doctor who will one day sign my death certificate who I hope is reading this: When that fateful day comes, please postdate the date of death by a century or two.
*Linux is a Registered Trademark of Linus Torvalds, for now.