Wednesday, April 30, 2008

[Misc] Strong Opinions on Freedom

Today I listened to the IT Conversations Podcast: "Eben Moglen on Licensing in the Web 2.0 Era". I must say, that this talk made me thinking. It for sure left me with mixed emotions. Eben was discussing with Tim O'Reilly and I definitly disliked the fact, that he attacked O'Reilly on a quite personal and in my opinion unprofessional level.

Still, there is a point he makes. Eben Moglen is a professor of law at Columbia law school and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center (and working with Richard Stallman). He was recently busy with the GPLv3, and this was part of the discussion. The main point Eben again and again raised was however, that we wasted at least 10 years in discussing "Open Source" and not about discussing freedom. We should talk about patent laws and other regulations in the first place.

I think that there is something to it. I also tried in discussions and publications to focus less on Open Source, but on conditions that make Open Source the right way to go, as Open Source itself is not the issue. I always felt that e.g. protocols are the more important field of discussion and policy than Software actually is. And here is the point where legal policies could also play an important role for freedom (of choice) and lay a proper foundation for non-monopolistic commerce: If we would e.g. have a proper regulation on Office protocols, like defining that only open specified document formats (like used in Open Office) are allowed in public services, this would lead to a pressure to software vendors and to a proper competition on the market and finally also to a rich Open Source scene. Then we would have the freedom of choice, the freedom to use our data and information in any way we want plus it would have positive effects on the Open Source scene, but not the other way round.

Ok, these are my two cents to the topic. To conclude, I think that Eben is definitly making a valid point, even if he decides to use an aggressiv tone in his speech that is not appropriate in my opinion. Listen and decide for yourself.

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