Sunday, March 27, 2005

Moglen at FSF

This, the third of four short posts on yesterday's Free Software Foundation meeting, focuses on the talk given by Eben Moglen. It was mainly a summary of the past year (i.e. the 12 months since the last FSF meeting) in terms of legal developments relevant to free software.

One of the biggest such developments was the progress in the SCO litigation. There hasn't been much for SCO. On the contrary, the litigation has served as a useful wakeup call to IT vendors using free software components in the solutions they provide to clients. It made these vendors aware of the need to be ready for future attacks on free software, and of the need to fund such readiness.

This awareness led to the founding of the Software Freedom Law Center. EM, who chairs the center, remarked that there are now a lot of young people who have a technical background and a law degree, and that people like this that the SFLC will recruit.

I was particularly struck by the ways in which EM referred to Microsoft. One of the terms he used most frequently was "the adversary." He also made several references to Microsoft as "the monopoly." A series of references to a coming legal battles put me in mind of Lord of the Rings, and sure enough, one of the ways in which EM emphasized the importance of Longhorn to Microsoft was to use the image of "the Eye of Sauron" being focused on Longhorn, perhaps at the expense of other issues.

This made me realize that, since I got into blogging a few months ago, much of my impression of Microsoft has come from Robert Scoble. I have been paying less attention to the free part of "blogging on the free web" than to the blogging part. Spending a day at the FSF meeting reminded me of a face of Microsoft less friendly than Scoble's.

Finally, I must say that EM was an incredible speaker. He used no overheads or other visual aids, he just presented well-organized thoughts using beautifully-turned phrases. I'd highly recommend hearing him, if you haven't done so already. I'd also highly recommend hearing Larry Lessig, but that's the next post, and it'll probably have to wait until tomorrow.

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