Easterbrook on GPL, Presages AltLaw

While playing with my current all-consuming project, AltLaw.org, I came across this case: Wallace v. IBM. In 2006 a man named Daniel Wallace sued various distributors of GNU/Linux, including IBM, Red Hat, and Novell, for “price-fixing.” Since the GPL ensures Linux will always be free, Wallace argued, he cannot afford to enter the market with his own operating system, thus Linux distributors have an illegal monopoly. Judge Frank Easterbrook, in an opinion that mentions Open Office and GIMP, denies the claim, concluding “The GPL and open-source software have nothing to fear from the antitrust laws.”

Easterbrook also mentions the popularity of commercial legal databases such as WestLaw and Lexis-Nexis, “even though courts give away their work (this opinion, for example, is not covered by copyright and may be downloaded from the court’s web site and copied without charge).”

Brilliant! Easterbrook captures both AltLaw’s reason for existence and its methodology in one sentence. Couldn’t have said it better myself, Frank.