December 2005 Vol. 104 No. 3 THE REVIEW

What’s So Great about Nothing? The GNU General Public License and the Zero-Price-Fixing Problem

Heidi S. Bond

In 1991, Linus Torvalds released the first version of the Linux operating system. Like many other beneficiaries of the subsequent dot-com boom, Torvalds worked on a limited budget. Clad in a bathrobe, clattering away on a computer purchased on credit, subsisting on a diet of pretzels and dry pasta, hiding in a tiny room that was outfitted with thick black shades designed to block out Finland’s summer sun, Torvalds programmed Linux.

Like some other beneficiaries of the subsequent dot-com boom, Torvalds created a product that is now used by millions. He owns stock options worth seven figures. Computer industry giants, such as IBM, Novell, and Sun, have invested time and energy in his work. But unlike many other beneficiaries of the subsequent dot-com boom, Torvalds gave Linux away for free.

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