According to their own website: “The Linux Foundation protects and promotes the ideals of freedom and generous collaboration established through the development of Linux, and shares these ideals to power any endeavor aiming to make the future a better place in which to live.” This is indeed a noble goal, and to assist it in this endeavor, many of the world’s largest technology companies pay tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. All this money is first stored in a Scrooge McDuck style silo before being used to pay the salaries of some kernel developers, passed on to projects improving security in open source, and used to promote Linux in a wide variety of ways.
All is not quite as rosy as it all seems. The Linux Foundation quietly changed its bylaws to prevent individual members to elect any board members. Now the entire board of the foundation is elected by corporate members with the majority of board members coming from the Platinum supporters (organizations paying over half a million dollars per year). Kernel hacker and self-proclamed Social Justice Warrior Mathew Garret noted that the change to the bylaws happened shortly after Karen Sandler announced that she planned to stand as a board memeber. Karen is also currently working with the Free Software Conservancy, an organization that is supporting a lawsuit by a kernel developer claiming that VMware is breaching the GPL on his code. VMWare just happens to be a member of the Linux Foundation. Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation claims that Karen is a lovely person and that the timing of the change is purely coincidental.
This organisation that claims to “protects and promotes the ideals of freedom and generous collaboration established through the development of Linux” is starting to appear more like a trade association designed to protect the interests of its members rather than any ideals. This shouldn’t be surprising given that the Linux Foundation, despite it’s lofty words, is in fact a 501(c)(6) trade association. This is the designation means that it’s a legal entity that should support the business of it’s members, not a charity helping to make the world a better place.
Thanks for reading this far! We’ll now get the the brunt of this fortnight’s voice of the masses: Should the Linux Foundation have some community representation?
Does it seem wrong that it’s hugely influential in the world of Linux yet regular Linux users can’t influence it’s internal direction in any way?
Or does it seem right that it raises huge amounts of money and pays for people to make awesome open source software? The board of directors don’t influence the kernel programmers anyway, they just meet on tropical islands, drink champagne out of coconuts and discuss how many ivory back scratchers to buy. As long as the money keeps rolling in, then should we be happy with the situation?
As always, let us know your comments below and we’ll read them out on our upcoming podcast.