Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

Last updated
Alexis de Tocqueville Institution
Named after Alexis de Tocqueville
Formation29 July 1985 (1985-07-29)
Type 501(c)(3)
Headquarters New York, NY
Ken Brown
Gregory Fossedal

The Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (AdTI) was a Washington, D.C. based think tank.


AdTI was named after the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville. Founded in 1988, its president was Ken Brown and its chairman was Gregory Fossedal. At its peak it had 14 full-time staff researchers. In 2006, the organization ceased most operations, issuing its last press release in 2007 to announce that its former chairman was running for President of the United States.


Intellectual property studies

The AdTI published a series of studies beginning in 2002 on the theme of intellectual property in the software industry. The Institution authored Opening the Open Source Debate (June 2002), a report critical of Microsoft's open-source rivals. This report claimed that open source software was inherently less secure than proprietary software and hence a particular target for terrorists.

These studies culminated in Samizdat: And Other Issues Regarding the 'Source' of Open Source Code (prereleased May 2004), questioning the generally accepted provenance of Linux and other open source projects, and recommending that government-funded programming should never be licensed under the GNU General Public License but under the BSD license or similar licenses. While the book called for increased investment in open source development, it criticized what it called "hybrid" source models, in which true open source code is mixed with proprietary code, with the result that intellectual property rights are nullified. [1]

To illustrate potential problems with this approach, the book cited the case of Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux. It claimed Torvalds used source code taken from Minix, a small Unix-like operating system used in teaching computer science, to create Linux 0.01, on the theory that no mere student could write an entire Unix-like kernel single-handedly—although writing a kernel of similar size and capabilities is a standard part of many computer science degrees[ where? ]. These claims have been seriously questioned, including by many of those quoted in support, such as Andrew S. Tanenbaum, author of Minix; Dennis Ritchie, one of the creators of Unix; and Richard Stallman, leader of the GNU project. Others have said that quotes attributed as being from an "interview with AdTI" were in fact from prerelease papers (Ilkka Tuomi) or from message board posts (Charles Mills, Henry Jones). Alexey Toptygin said he had been commissioned by Brown to find similarities between Minix and Linux 0.01 source code, and found no support for the theory that Minix source code had been used to create Linux; this study is not mentioned in the book.

It cited a number of arguments for the claim, including an email from Tanenbaum saying MINIX "was the base" Torvalds used to create Linux. Tanenbaum later published a refutation of the book's interpretation, wherein he recounted an interview with Ken Brown while the latter was researching the book, during which Tanenbaum had emphatically stated his belief that Torvalds wrote Linux single-handedly and provided examples of other people or small teams who had performed similar feats in the past. [2]

The AdTI was preparing a new study in November 2004, tentatively titled Intellectual Property Left, to argue that "the IT industry sector's reluctance to pursue rampant IP infringement against public domain software developers and users is going to precipitate billions of dollars in balance sheet downgrades by Wall Street." [3] The later papers stand in contrast to the Institution's 2000 paper, The Market Place Should Rule on Technology, which discusses Linux as a direct competitor to Microsoft Windows.

Other publications

The AdTI produced a number of papers on education policy.[ which? ]

When the B-2 bomber program was threatened in 1995, the AdTI organised a letter to President Bill Clinton signed by seven former Pentagon chiefs: Dick Cheney, Caspar Weinberger, Frank Carlucci, Harold Brown, James Schlesinger, Donald Rumsfeld and Melvin Laird. [4]

The AdTI published Newt Gingrich's 2003 book, Saving Lives & Saving Money: Transforming Health and Healthcare. [5]

AdTI was a member organization of the Cooler Heads Coalition which asserts that "the science of global warming is uncertain" and is focused on "dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis". [6]


Microsoft had been one of the Institution's backers for five years, although a Microsoft spokesman said they had not funded any specific research. [7] [8]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Andrew S. Tanenbaum</span> American-Dutch computer scientist (born 1944)

Andrew Stuart Tanenbaum, sometimes referred to by the handle ast, is an American–Dutch computer scientist and professor emeritus of computer science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eric S. Raymond</span> American computer programmer, author, and advocate for the open source movement

Eric Steven Raymond, often referred to as ESR, is an American software developer, open-source software advocate, and author of the 1997 essay and 1999 book The Cathedral and the Bazaar. He wrote a guidebook for the Roguelike game NetHack. In the 1990s, he edited and updated the Jargon File, published as The New Hacker's Dictionary.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Linus Torvalds</span> Creator and lead developer of the Linux kernel (born 1969)

Linus Benedict Torvalds is a Finnish software engineer who is the creator and lead developer of the Linux kernel, used by Linux distributions like Debian, Arch and Android. He also created the distributed version control system Git.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Minix</span> Unix-like operating system

MINIX is a Unix-like operating system based on a microkernel architecture. Since version 2.0, it has been Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX) compliant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Operating system</span> Software that manages computer hardware resources

An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware and software resources, and provides common services for computer programs.

<i>Revolution OS</i> 2001 documentary film

Revolution OS is a 2001 documentary film that traces the twenty-year history of GNU, Linux, open source, and the free software movement.

<i>SCO Group, Inc. v. International Business Machines Corp.</i>

SCO Group, Inc. v. International Business Machines Corp., commonly abbreviated as SCO v. IBM, is a civil lawsuit in the United States District Court of Utah. The SCO Group asserted that there are legal uncertainties regarding the use of the Linux operating system due to alleged violations of IBM's Unix licenses in the development of Linux code at IBM. The lawsuit was filed in 2003, it has lingered on through the bankruptcy of SCO Group and the adverse result in SCO v. Novell, and was reopened for continued litigation by order of a new judge on June 14, 2013. Pursuant to the court order reopening the case, an IBM Motion for Summary Judgment was filed based upon the results of the Novell decision. On December 15, 2014, the judge granted most of IBM's motion, thereby narrowing the scope of the case, which remained open. On March 1, 2016, following a ruling against the last remaining claims, the judge dismissed SCO's suit against IBM with prejudice. SCO filed an appeal later that month. In February 2018, as a result of the appeal and the case being partially remanded to the circuit court, the parties restated their remaining claims and provided a plan to move toward final judgement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">GNU Project</span> Free software project

The GNU Project is a free software, mass collaboration project announced by Richard Stallman on September 27, 1983. Its goal is to give computer users freedom and control in their use of their computers and computing devices by collaboratively developing and publishing software that gives everyone the rights to freely run the software, copy and distribute it, study it, and modify it. GNU software grants these rights in its license.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">GNU/Linux naming controversy</span> Issues of what to call a system with the GNU toolchain and the Linux kernel

Within the free software and the open-source software communities there is controversy over whether to refer to computer operating systems that use a combination of GNU software and the Linux kernel as "GNU/Linux" or "Linux" systems.

The Linux kernel mailing list (LKML) is the main electronic mailing list for Linux kernel development, where the majority of the announcements, discussions, debates, and flame wars over the kernel take place. Many other mailing lists exist to discuss the different subsystems and ports of the Linux kernel, but LKML is the principal communication channel among Linux kernel developers. It is a very high-volume list, usually receiving about 1,000 messages each day, most of which are kernel code patches.

Samizdat: And Other Issues Regarding the 'Source' of Open Source Code is a 2004 report by Kenneth Brown. The report suggests that the Linux kernel may have been created or distributed illegally and that open-source software may be generally subject to such abuses.

The Minix file system is the native file system of the Minix operating system. It was written from scratch by Andrew S. Tanenbaum in the 1980s and aimed to replicate the structure of the Unix File System while omitting complex features, and was intended to be a teaching aid. It largely fell out of favour among Linux users by 1994 due to the popularity of other filesystems - most notably ext2 - and its lack of features, including limited partition sizes and filename length limits.

Tivoization is the practice of designing hardware that incorporates software under the terms of a copyleft software license like the GNU General Public License, but uses hardware restrictions or digital rights management (DRM) to prevent users from running modified versions of the software on that hardware. Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) coined the term in reference to TiVo's use of GNU GPL licensed software on the TiVo brand digital video recorders (DVR), which actively block modified software by design. Stallman believes this practice denies users some of the freedom that the GNU GPL was designed to protect. The FSF refers to tivoized hardware as "proprietary tyrants".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tanenbaum–Torvalds debate</span> 1990s debate regarding the Linux kernel

The Tanenbaum–Torvalds debate was a written debate between Andrew S. Tanenbaum and Linus Torvalds, regarding the Linux kernel and kernel architecture in general. Tanenbaum, the creator of Minix, began the debate in 1992 on the Usenet discussion group comp.os.minix, arguing that microkernels are superior to monolithic kernels and therefore Linux was, even in 1992, obsolete. The debate has sometimes been considered a flame war.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Minix 3</span> Unix-like operating system

Minix 3 is a small, Unix-like operating system. It is published under a BSD-3-Clause license and is a successor project to the earlier versions, Minix 1 and 2.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Linux</span> Family of Unix-like operating systems

Linux is a family of open-source Unix-like operating systems based on the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on September 17, 1991, by Linus Torvalds. Linux is typically packaged as a Linux distribution (distro), which includes the kernel and supporting system software and libraries, many of which are provided by the GNU Project. Many Linux distributions use the word "Linux" in their name, but the Free Software Foundation uses and recommends the name "GNU/Linux" to emphasize the use and importance of GNU software in many distributions, causing some controversy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Criticism of Linux</span> Issues concerning use of operating systems which use the Linux kernel

The criticism of Linux focuses on issues concerning use of operating systems which use the Linux kernel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of free and open-source software</span> Aspect of history

In the 1950s and 1960s, computer operating software and compilers were delivered as a part of hardware purchases without separate fees. At the time, source code, the human-readable form of software, was generally distributed with the software providing the ability to fix bugs or add new functions. Universities were early adopters of computing technology. Many of the modifications developed by universities were openly shared, in keeping with the academic principles of sharing knowledge, and organizations sprung up to facilitate sharing. As large-scale operating systems matured, fewer organizations allowed modifications to the operating software, and eventually such operating systems were closed to modification. However, utilities and other added-function applications are still shared and new organizations have been formed to promote the sharing of software.

Linux began in 1991 as a personal project by Finnish student Linus Torvalds to create a new free operating system kernel. The resulting Linux kernel has been marked by constant growth throughout its history. Since the initial release of its source code in 1991, it has grown from a small number of C files under a license prohibiting commercial distribution to the 4.15 version in 2018 with more than 23.3 million lines of source code, not counting comments, under the GNU General Public License v2 with a syscall exception meaning anything that uses the kernel via system calls are not subject to the GNU GPL.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Linux kernel</span> Operating system kernel

The Linux kernel is a free and open-source, monolithic, modular, multitasking, Unix-like operating system kernel. It was originally written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds for his i386-based PC, and it was soon adopted as the kernel for the GNU operating system, which was written to be a free (libre) replacement for Unix.


  1. Brown, Kenneth (June 4, 2004). "Samizdat's critics... Brown replies". Archived from the original on December 29, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  2. Tanenbaum, Andy (May 20, 2004). "Some Notes on the "Who wrote Linux" Kerfuffle, Release 1.5". Archived from the original on August 18, 2010. Retrieved December 13, 2015. I said that to the best of my knowledge, Linus wrote the whole kernel himself, but after it was released, other people began improving the kernel, which was very primitive initially, and adding new software to the system – essentially the same development model as MINIX. [...] By the time Linus started, five people or small teams had independently implemented the UNIX kernel or something approximating it, namely, Thompson, Coherent, Holt, Comer, and me. All of this was perfectly legal and nobody stole anything. Given this history, it is pretty hard to make a case that one person can't implement a system of the complexity of Linux, whose original size was about the same as V1.0 of MINIX.
  3. Stapleton, Lisa (December 1, 2004). "ADTI: Ready for Round Three with Open Sourcers". Linux Insider. ECT News Network, Inc. Archived from the original on November 27, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  4. "The Best Defense: The B-2 Bomber". Archived from the original on October 15, 2007.
  5. Gingrich, Newt, Dana Pavey, and Anne Woodbury. Saving Lives & Saving Money: Transforming Health and Healthcare. Washington, DC: Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, 2003. ISBN   978-0-9705485-4-2
  6. "The Cooler Heads Coalition". February 4, 2004. Archived from the original on April 27, 2006.
  7. Lemos, Robert. "Linux makes a run for government". CNET.
  8. Carney, Dan; Borrus, Amy; Greene, Jay (May 15, 2000). "Microsoft's All-Out Counterattack". Bloomberg L.P. Archived from the original on January 18, 2011. Retrieved September 11, 2010.