Sarbanes-Oxley: Linux Users Beware

Bill Sjostrom —  19 January 2006

As you may have guessed from my previous posts, I’m not a big fan of Sarbanes-Oxley, so I generally appreciate the criticism it receives. Some of the criticism, however, is almost comical. Take for example Steve Ballmer’s statement last month: ”The Ballmer children do not have their Xbox 360 yet…Thanks to the wonders of Sarbanes-Oxley, management does not get a free Xbox 360.â€? See this post for more details. Tonight I ran across this report which claims as follows:

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed in the wake of the Enron and other financial scandals, requires public companies to provide truthful disclosures of information, including ownership of intellectual property. Thus, if a company is violating the GPL, executives who do not disclose the cheating are violating the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, because they are not truthfully disclosing that they do not lawfully own their intellectual property. In other words, GPL evasion is now a criminal violation for executives both [sic] of public companies.

GPL refers to the GNU General Public License. Companies who use the Linux operating system are supposed to comply with it. I suppose one could dream up a hypotheticl situation where a GPL violation would constitute a criminal SOX violation, but the quoted language above is a gross overstatement. It leads to headlines like mine and this one: “Linux Users May be Violating Sarbanes-Oxley.


3 responses to Sarbanes-Oxley: Linux Users Beware

    save_the_rustbelt 21 January 2006 at 5:33 pm

    Yes, management should be free to committ accounting fraud whever it fits, this honesty thing is such a drag — just kidding.

    Ever sophomore business student gets at least a couple of lectures on managements’ duty to design and implement internal controls, so why is SOX such a burden? It simply requires what good management requires.

    The new SEC rules on Exec Comp should be loads of fun. How many $6000 shower curtains will we find?


    I’m a fan of the GPL myself. But when I heard about this headline, I had to search through the text of Sarbanes Oxley for “property,” “intellectual,” “patents,” “copyright,” and “trademark.” I couldn’t find anything.

    Even so, I don’t see how a GPL violation would trigger an issue like this. It’s not like violating the GPL appropriates ownership in the code.


    Call me a jerk, but nothing is more obnoxious that listening to a man who owns over 400 million shares of Microsoft bitch about not getting a $300 toy for free.