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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

By Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier on July 24, 2007 (6:54:30 PM)

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Portland, Ore. -- At the O'Reilly Open Source Convention today, Software Freedom Law Center director Eben Moglen threw down the gauntlet to O'Reilly founder and CEO Tim O'Reilly. Saying that O'Reilly had spent 10 years making money and building the O'Reilly name, Moglen invited O'Reilly to stop being "frivolous" and to join the conversation about software freedom.

During today's executive briefing, Moglen was given a half hour to discuss "licensing in the Web 2.0 era" with O'Reilly. Earlier in the session, the exchanges between O'Reilly and other guests had been genial and fairly superficial, focusing on Facebook and Firefox extensions. However, Moglen took O'Reilly to task about promoting open source over free software, and got rather heated at several points during the exchange, telling O'Reilly that his premise that Web 2.0 had rendered software licenses unimportant was faulty.

Instead, Moglen says that the Web 2.0 era is "a bunch of hooey" and the "revolution we've been through hasn't been the centralization of processing capacity, it's been the distribution of processing capacity." He invited everyone to "look around the room" and pointed out that there were 150 to 200 computers in the room with "more opportunity to make software than IBM had in 1965."

In the long term, Moglen says that people will tell Google and other providers "we'll store it [data] ourselves ... and we'll do what we want with it."

According to Moglen, "on the 10-year timescale, this [Web 2.0] is thermal noise." When O'Reilly countered that one could claim that Linux was also "thermal noise," Moglen shot back "you could, but you'd be wrong" and that Linux would continue to be important on the long-term timescale.

Moglen also says that this is not a new problem, and says that he faced the same issue when he started with the Free Software Foundation in 1993 over a situation with a hosted version of an optimized GCC. He dismissed the idea that the Web 2.0 companies are the long haul. "Facebook is a question of what the kids are doing this week; it's not my problem," says Moglen, and suggested that the kids will be doing something else next week.

The idea that Google and other "Web 2.0" providers are somehow making licenses irrelevant is wrong, says Moglen, because those companies are exercising freedoms that Richard M. Stallman sought to protect with the GPL -- namely, the right to run software for any purpose, and the right to make private modifications. While those rights may conflict with others -- namely the right to study modifications -- Moglen says that "binary thinking" won't solve the problem. Instead we need diplomacy to protect and ensure the rights of all parties. "We've got to conclude that what Google does, they have a right to do in freedom. They shouldn't need permission to run programs. If you need permission to run programs, you can't have freedom."

The concern over Web 2.0 companies and software licensing, says Moglen, is "spending 90% of your time worrying about 2% of activity."

Next, Moglen took O'Reilly to task over supporting "open source" rather than free software. "If we'd been worrying about principle instead of open source ... You guys were wasting time talking about open source.... We still have serious problems to correct in public policies made by people propping up business models that were dying and wasting time promoting commercial products."

At that point, Moglen issued O'Reilly an "invitation to do the thing you know to be important. Stop worrying about a little bit of money" and join the conversation about free software instead of open source.

Moglen also took several questions from the audience. One attendee asked how we could take Moglen seriously when the GPLv3 didn't close the software-as-a-service loophole. Moglen says that the GPLv3 could have closed the "loophole" but then it would have violated two of the fundamental freedoms: the freedom to run code for any purpose, and the right to private modifications. Moglen says that he's not interested in legal work that removes people's rights, but that he is more interested in doing work that finds a way to support the rights of both parties. When rights are in conflict, he says that lawyers need to find ways to protect the rights of both parties.

At the close of the session, just before the midday break, Moglen told O'Reilly to "use this 10 years" for less frivolous purposes, and that he'd "just bought you enough time with GPLv3 to address this [free software] like a grownup." When O'Reilly suggested that Moglen had made a personal attack, Moglen replied, "I invited you to a conversation you'd been avoiding."

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on Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Joe Barr on July 24, 2007 07:22 PM
You go, Eben!

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 161.185.1.100] on July 24, 2007 08:07 PM
About time somebody said it, and who better than Eben? Not that it will work, mind you -- O'Reilly has made it clear he can't see beyond his commercial interests.

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.131.206.115] on July 24, 2007 08:53 PM
Who cares whether Tim O'Reilly supports "free" software or "just" open source?

Since when did Tim - a book and Web site publisher - become Bill Gates?

This is just another example of the FSF being fanatics about issues 99% of the software developers and software using public couldn't care less about. It's just another propaganda stunt.

In the long run, as long as we're talking about the long run, it won't matter whether software was "free" or OSS. The industry needs to concentrate on making the crap WORK and making it available for a reasonable price, preferably free.

Everything else is chicken scratchings.

And don't tell me OSS is any less good at making software WORK than "free" software - the license is irrelevant. While it is beneficial to have modifications returned to the community, this is going to happen - either via forking or outright theft - regardless as long as the license is not proprietary. So the difference between OSS and "free" is irrelevant here.

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Re: Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 4.237.53.39] on July 24, 2007 11:39 PM
"And don't tell me OSS is any less good at making software WORK than "free" software - the license is irrelevant."

As the above article states, Professor Moglen would disagree with you. We already know the software works -- it's the license that makes all the difference. To quote, "If you need permission to run programs, you can't have freedom." Freedom is the key.

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 98.197.170.18] on July 25, 2007 12:11 AM
If Tim prefers to make money rather than enter the debate is that not a freedom he should enjoy? Once again, proponents of free software are not concerned with freedoms generally, they are concerned with the freedoms they find important to the exclusion of freedoms others find important. There are more freedoms than those enumerated by the FSF.

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Re: Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.68.179.81] on July 25, 2007 12:48 AM
It's also pretty clear that a choice between greed and freedom is really the question here, it's not at all a choice between competing freedoms.

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: unknown] on July 25, 2007 03:15 AM
It's the supposed moral superiority of the free software crowd that I object to. It's like saying, "I give half my income to charity, and you're bad because you don't". If you want to proselytize about free software, by all means do so, and with my blessing. But the moment you start browbeating me over the morality issues, you've stepped over the line. O'Reilly also prints books about Windows stuff. So what? He's done a lot for the F/OSS/Linux community. But it never seems enough for the Stallmanites. Ever wonder why Stallman and Torvalds aren't chummy? This is why.

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 207.99.52.161] on July 25, 2007 05:20 AM
Many of the commenters seem to missing the main points of the O'Reilly - Moglen contact, and actually make contradictory and stupid statements. The "license" IS what makes the software free to study, use, modify and distribute. No if, ands or buts - just ask an attorney versed in Patents/Trademarks and Copyright.

Eben is not attempting to take away Tim's freedoms, but is "inviting" him to join in a conversation that may extend "all" freedoms regarding software technology. And the commenter who explains why he "dislikes" Open Source/Free Software people as arrogant, is childish in his response, since those that believe in these freedoms should be strong-willed and enthusiastic, not wimpy and always caving in to the proprietary bullies while complaining all the while.

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 202.82.32.177] on July 25, 2007 10:12 AM
Eben Moglen claims some kind of moral superiority, but he still intends to restrict software ... with the viral GPL.

The BSD licence is far more free than anything we've seen from the FSF.

I intensely dislike being told how I should do something.

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Re: Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 212.79.178.22] on July 25, 2007 11:36 AM
"I intensely dislike being told how I should do something."
A free software supporter should know that the GPL is not made to extend her or his rights. It is all about the users.

If you release programs under free but non-copyleft licenses you are not caring about me (as a user). It does not matter to you whether someone else (a 3rd party) can deny me the freedoms you gave me in the first place. As you have written above all what interests you is yourself.

Nevertheless it is your choice. Do what you ever think is right.

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Re: Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 4.237.53.43] on July 25, 2007 12:06 PM
Lucky for you no one is telling you what to do! Don't like the GPL? Don't use it! Make a small fortune on Free Software? Consider discussing its advantages! Anything else I can help clarify?

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Re: Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.68.179.81] on July 25, 2007 01:46 PM
The BSD license is nothing, so in a Bobby McGee kind of sense, you may be right, since freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.61.114] on July 25, 2007 12:23 PM
Moglen is so right about the future of the net. I too always tell people that after web 2.0, we shall all move back to desktop applications but they will be distributed. There will be IPV6, every one will be on the public network, every one will host their own email, webpages, IM service, etc The internet is going to get distributed soon, people need to realize this.

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Moglen challenges O'Reilly to join the conversation

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.142.83.142] on July 25, 2007 12:33 PM
Is there a video recording, audio recording, or transcript of this session available for public access? Thanks in advance.

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Re: Moglen challenges O'Reilly to join the conversation

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 74.12.221.242] on August 01, 2007 08:07 PM
Ditto.

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.15.39.115] on July 25, 2007 01:51 PM
I think the FSF zealots do not understand what capitalism is all about; I think most of them haven't taken a serious economics course in their lives. FOSS is all fine and good, but I am sure the people who work for O'Reilley as well as the people who use his books to become successful have NO QUALMS about his success.

For those who still believe that selling goods is somehow 'less moral' than selling services: how does one become successful in a free market without helping other people? Outside of law and politics I would say you cannot.

Imagine a world where we could vote for the people who help others the most, and when we help other people we get more of these 'votes'. The more we help the more votes we get. We could call these votes "money".....

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.26.213.136] on July 25, 2007 03:21 PM
I'm tired of people who babble on about Freedoms, Arguing that more freedom is better, and forgetting that the most totally free type of system is anarchy. The reason we need rules is that in a totally free system, Might makes right. There is a reason why this country instituted things like the SEC to watch over Free Markets. (For those of you who don't know your history, it was because the unregulated markets that existed before some rules were set, were geared to rigging by the rich, they were also largely unstable, but that is more related to Herd Mentality). They also set up rules to govern what large companies were allowed to do. Have you read about how Rockefeller, and Carnegie, and Vanderbilt made their fortunes? It's unsavory. One of the reasons sited in recent years about America's economic strength, is our large REGULATED marketplace. We don't have an anything goes system. A lot of people argue that the MIT and the BSD licenses are better, because they have fewer restrictions (read regulations) on how the code is used. And, in fact that code has been used by MS, they like those licenses. They used the BSD, internet stack for years (still do for all I know). They used Kerberous (MIT license) to develop some of Active directory. But, of course they evolved those systems, changed, them, and with Active Directory, used that as a weapon to make people buy their servers. So what was the result? Software developed in an Open Source sense, was taken proprietary, by the convicted predatary monopolist, and used against everybody that competed with them. Now you can argue they were Free to do that. And, I will agree with you, and so will Eben Moglen, and Richard Stallman.
But, Richard Stallman, really isn't interested in helping MS or anybody else for that matter, use his work, to gain more contol over their customers. He's interested in building an ecosystem where more companies, and individuals, can share in the common plumbing, so that we can make that plumbing work better. That is why the GPL has restrictions. And, I would argue that the GPL has done something that all the others can't. They allow big very competitive companies to work together on the basic things, (what I have referred to as plumbing, that is operating systems, Network protocols, Security softwaree, encryption algorithms, File systems, Programming languages, Programming tools, Office suites, Office suite file formats, etc). That is why IBM can contribute to Linux. Because they know that they are making a basic thing better, and it can't be used against them. And, if Sun adopts GPLV3 for Solaris, You'll get to see Linux and Solaris cross polinate, and make both of those 2 systems better (probably eventually merge).
So if you want to argue for Anarchy, and you like it when the bully comes in, and pushes you around, keep arguing how you like the reaaly free licenses, like BSD. If you want live and work in an environment, of courtesy, and civility, where an improvement helps everybody eeually, then wake up, and realize that this is what Richard Stallman, and Eban Moglen are fighting for.

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.15.39.115] on July 25, 2007 03:41 PM
Actually they made their money by getting the GOVERNMENT to impose tariffs on imports, thus ensuring people would buy their goods.

The great depression was brought on by the Smoot Hawley Tariffs and then extended by FDR meddling in the marketplace with monetary policies.

So what if MS used BSD or MIT code? If you don't think that Active Directory is good then don't buy it. People who bought it thought their contributions were worth buying. You begrudge others for purchasing it, but honestly NO ONE IS HURT when they do it. Not only that its none of your business where people spend their money. You claim to agree with freedom, but only the kind you agree with anyway.

The real issue comes down to this zero sum game where if MS makes X dollars, then they take X dollars away from someone else. This is pure BS. People spend more money on technology than they did 15 years ago. Money isn't some shifting pie that people grab and stuff in a matress; its created each year(to the tune of 12 trillion dollars).

Instead of concerning yourself with restricting what others do, why not go and MAKE SOMETHING yourself? There are plenty of problems people need solved and trying to shave dollars off MS bottom line will do nothing to solve them.

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Re: Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.26.213.136] on July 25, 2007 09:52 PM
I think you were confused by my argument. The SEC, and Antitrust Legislation, came out of recognizing that our free markets were being abused, by large powerful companies. People today generally agree, that to make a market work well, you need a regulatory/police function, to make sure that the richest and most powerful don't abuse that power. Teddy Roosevelt is the Roosevelt, who took on the large trusts, and was able to get laws passed relating to Monopolies. I think that you are correct that the SEC was created after the stock crash, But the SEC was created to make sure that individuals, and companies couldn't game Wall street. While the great depression may have been caused by the government interference, Tariffs, (which everything I've ever read says that the restrictions of trade at minimum exasperated the world economy, if not causing the depression) Has nothing to with my point about regulated markets as oppose to totally free markets.

As to your point that NOBODY is HURT. I think you are either deluding yourself, or you haven't thought it through. If I pay more for something, than i should have. I"m Hurt. You can argue, you don't have to pay MS or AT&T, or any other monopoly, that is earning Monopoly Profits. And you're right, I could go and live in a cave. But, I'd rather live where Marketplaces are allowed to work, and companies can compete fairly, and I get the most for my money. Think about it, If MS is making $1billion dollars a month PROFIT off of Windows, and Office, That affects you. It means you're buying software, and 75% of the money isn't going in to improving the software, it's just lining somebodies wallet. (Not yours). Think about all the companies out there who could have saved a bunch of money, and spent it somewhere else, on things like research, or equipment, or their own employees salaries.
As to your last point, Go MAKE SOMETHING, Well that is exactly what the GNU Linux Did. They went out, and made a better more stable, more secure Operating system. And they were able to do it, in large part because of the GPL.

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: eldergeek on July 25, 2007 04:04 PM
There's nobody in the world whom I hold in more awe and respect than Eban Moglen but from my little corner of Linuxnewbville it appears as though he and a large number of his peers spend a great deal of time arguing over semantics. I suppose that's as it should be but I hope there isn't a forest fire behind all those trees.

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.92.145.79] on July 27, 2007 12:55 AM
Civility? You've obviously never been in the same room with RMS, god help you if the AC fails, the stink will damn near knock you over.

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Re: Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 209.30.174.70] on August 04, 2007 06:13 AM
I *have* been in the same room with RMS, and that's a vicious slur. Apparently there is an ongoing concerted effort to say this enough times that the gullible begin to believe that it is true.

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to "join the conversation"

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Eben Moglen challenges Tim O'Reilly to &quot;join the conversation&quot;

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