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Soviets Backed Open Source Software in the '80s?

By El Snatcher
Pigdog Editor

We found this article floating around the net (USENET, mailing lists, etc.) It is most likely a completely fake news story, but what if it isn't? At least it's entertaining...

We can't find it on the Reuters site anywhere, but sometimes things are hard to find there... What do you think?

    Tuesday December 15 1:49 AM ET

    Open Source Software: Echoes from the Cold War

    ST PETERSBURG Dec 15 (Reuters) - Following the public release of
    the latest batch of Soviet documents in November this year, Alexei
    Chelenko, curator of the Soviet Archives at Moscow University,
    discovered a paper trail which shows that the KGB, the now defunct
    Soviet secret police, made anonymous donations to Free Software
    Foundation sponsored Open Source Software development projects.

    Open Source is a scheme in which computer software development is
    carried out by thousands of volunteers on the Internet.  Its
    products are freely available and include operating systems, Web
    servers, and scripting languages.  Organizations such as the Free
    Software Foundation accept donations from third parties for the
    purpose of developing Open Source software.

    The documents allegedly show that during the 1980s various Open
    Source projects, including some developed by the Free Software
    Foundation, unknowingly received money from the Soviet government
    totaling more than $175,000.

    "It really boggles the mind," Chelenko said, "why the Soviet
    government would be involved in such a scheme."

    Ivan Prymakov of the Moscow University Department of Computer
    Science is not surprised.

    "It was in all likelihood a desperate attempt by the Soviet
    Government to hinder the booming US computer industry of the
    '80s," he said.

    Prymakov speculates that by donating to US-based Open Source
    projects, the Soviet government may have been trying to hinder
    the American economy.

    "By helping to develop inexpensive alternatives to commercial
    software, the KGB may have hoped to drive US software corporations
    out of business, derail the whole US computer industry, and thus
    destabalize the US economy," said Pyrmakov.

    Sergei Kochkov, an Open Source developer and a post graduate
    student in Prymakov's department, worries that this revelation
    could hinder the adoption by private business of Open Source
    Software such as Linux.

    Linux, an Open Source computer operating system, includes many
    utilities which may have been developed with Soviet financial
    assistance.  Kochkov fears that the Open Source movement may have
    been an unsuspecting pawn in Cold War politics.

    "The Cold War is over, and this incident should be regarded as an
    unimportant footnote in history," Kochkov said.

    Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved. Republication
    or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or
    similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written
    consent of  Reuters.  Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or
    delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance



Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

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