Kenneth P. Brown

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Kenneth P. Brown is president of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, a conservative think tank funded by Philip Morris, Microsoft, AT&T Foundation, and others.

Don't confuse him with Kenneth G. Brown a Chapel Hill tobacco consultant who is also commonly called Ken Brown.

According to a biographical note Brown "oversees all of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution's policy studies and foundation relationships. Last year, Ken was the recipient of the "Young Leader" award from the American-Swiss Foundation. He is often quoted for both domestic and international news analysis. His editorials have been published in the Journal of Commerce, Washington Times and Internet Regulation Alert." [1]

"Ken is also Vice-President of Emerging Markets Group, an overseas market investment and advisory firm. Kenneth has a B.A. in English Literature from George Mason University," the biographical note states.

Brown has authored reports critical of Linus Torvalds and any Open Source Software developers. While Microsoft has confirmed they fund AdTI, Brown has refused to comment on who funds the organization generally. Nor would he disclose whether reports critical of Linux, Torvalds or open source software were specifically funded by Microsoft. [2]

Brown recently published Patents and the Penguin, April 28, 2004. [1]

While Brown's reports have been strongly criticised in technical circles, his intended audience is legislators, newspaper editors and talk show hosts.


It's clear to me, at least from quotes from [Andrew] Tanenbaum, that Linus [Torvalds] started [creating Linux] from Minix...He just sat down with [Andrew Tanenbaum's] Minix and wrote this product. By definition, that is not an invention. If you sit down with the Ford blueprints and build a Chrysler and don't give Ford any credit, that's not invention.[3]
"Among the [study's] conclusions is that there is a high probability that Linux is a derivative work, based on previous operating systems -- including, but not limited to, Unix and Minux," [Tocqueville senior fellow Gregory] Fossedal told NewsFactor. [4]

Linus Torvalds has denied copying code from Minix and said Brown never contacted him to verify his claims.

Andrew Tanenbaum, who should be demanding his due if this was true, also said he didn't believe it, and concluded "Ken Brown doesn't know what he is talking about."[5] "I don't believe for a nanosecond that Brown was trying to do a legitimate study of IP and open source or anything like that. I think he was trying to make the case the people funding him (which he refused to disclose to me despite my asking point blank) wanted to have made." [6]

Even Alexei Toptygin, an expert hired by Ken Brown, concluded there was no copying. "Around the middle of April, I was ... asked ... if I wanted to do some code analysis on a consultancy basis for ... Ken Brown. ... [M]y analysis found no evidence whatsoever that any code was copied one way or the other. ... [Brown tried] to convince me that I must have made a mistake, since it was clearly impossible for one person to write an OS and 'code theft' had to have occured. ... [T]o the best of my knowledge he is talking out of his ass." [7]

Open-source expert Eric Raymond, reading long excerpts of the book, decided "The excerpts make it clear that this book is going to be a steaming pile of crap, full of anti-factual distortions, scare-mongering, and FUD."

Brown's account is based on extensive interviews with more than two dozen leading technologists in the United States, Europe, and Australia, including Richard Stallman, Dennis Ritchie, and Andrew Tanenbaum.[8]

Richard Stallman: "The purpose of this report is to confuse, to cause fear, uncertainty and doubt" [9]

Dennis Ritchie: "I think that ... is overblown in my case. Brown sent an initial (email) probe asking for an interview, in response to which we invited AdTI to send some sample questions (which I answered). ... The only other interaction was a brief phone call from a staffer who asked only about a couple of fact things: how many lines of code in some early kernel, what date was it released." [10]

Andrew Tanenbaum: "[N]obody stole anything from anyone. ... I think Brown owes a number of us an apology." [11]

Brown has responded to criticism about Samizdat in a new article entitled [ Samizdat's critics... Brown replies]. In it Brown rants about the detrimental effect that Linux and other open source software are having on the IT industry. He, however, provides no proof what so ever concerning his wild claims, which have been refuted by many leading computer scientist, even those that he interviewed.


The Institution has published reports on open source software saying alternatively that it is harmful to the American economy, that it often does not follow existing copyright law, and that open source leaves the US vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

David F. Skoll, who runs a consulting company in Linux, wrote a commentary article on a AdTI employee Brown's critiques of security problems of Linux that was published on Roaring Penguin Software Inc website and subsequently reproduced by The Age (Melbourne). Gregory Fossedal, head of AdTI, told Skoll "it isn't our general policy to discuss who does and doesn't fund de Tocqueville, except in the case of qualified press or public officials who are willing to make symmetrical disclosures."

When Skoll disclosed his interests and pressed the point Fossedal replied: "Lookit [sic]: I've told you our policy about discussing our donors; you may think it's appropriate or you may think it's wrong-headed, but that's it." [12]

In a subsequent email sent to both Brown and Fossedal Skoll asked eight questions including how much Microsoft paid the organisation. They responded to the email but did not respond to that or the other specific questions.

In May 2004 Kenneth Brown [13] [14] of the institute published a paper on the origins of Linux and especially role of Linus Torvalds in its development. The paper made controversial claims on the role of Torvalds in development of the kernel claiming that Torvalds deserves much less credit of the kernel. Kenneth Brown did not interview Linus Torvalds on creating the paper, but did interview Andrew Tanenbaum. Once the paper was published, Andrew Tanenbaum, the author of Minix operating system, came forward and refuted claims of the Brown paper saying the findings there are wrong. His critique can be found from [15] and [16]. Critique from ESR can be found from [17].

Articles by Brown

Resources and articles


External links