The Free Geek

Ramblings of a Free Software Geek

The politics of the Free Software Revolution Sun, 11 Jun 2006 16:45:53 +0000

Filed under: Free Software — Bon Goose @ 16:45:53

Prof. Eben Moglen gave an incredible keynote address in the recently concluded Red Hat Summit in Nashville. His talk was all about thwarting the so-called notion that the politics of the Free Software revolution is somehow harmful for business and goes against the business ethics. He said that the Free Software movement is all about restoring the right to tinker and invent … not against any business, but at the same time it was “… in some fundamental sense directed against the interest that Microsoft projects'', though unintentionally. He also said that the whole idea that the politics of Free Software is undesirable was created by people like Microsoft, by spending a large amount of money taken from the users. In his whole speech he talked at length about the American inventive history and correlated past with the present in a great way. He explained how the very freedom to be somebody like Samuel Colt or Andrew Carnegie is being taken away from us. People no longer have the right to fix their own problems and thus improve the world by sharing their changes just because somebody has made it illegal to do so. Nobody in the whole world has the right to tinker or fix the problem except one company, which may or may not fix the problem depending on its own priorities.

He cited a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson which says “Every revolution begins as an idea in one man's mind'' and then went on to correlate Ralph with Stallman, thought and action and the freedom to make and the freedom to profit. He explained how the Patent system in the USA was actually introduced to encourage inventors from all over the world to emigrate to the USA by granting them exclusive use for a limited period of time. He also talked about the French way of holding onto their technical expertise by compiling the most successful & influential encyclopaedia of all time — the Encyclopédie.

He succeeded in firmly establishing the fact that political freedom and inventive freedom are very closely related, as political freedom spurts the inventiveness in man and allows him to grow. He affirmed that politics are as natural to us as the apple pie or the elections … there is no point in pushing it over to the side and needs to be accepted as an important part of the society.

He then talked about how we can protect our freedom by creating licenses like the GPL which restrict people in minimal ways to protect our freedom — a way of allowing ordered liberty to the people. He also talked briefly about the upcoming GPLv3 and explained how it will tackle the Software Patent system and DRM.

Lastly, he urged everybody to help in protecting our freedom and explaining the value of freedom to the people.

It was a really influential speech and I am sure everybody who has seen the video or been there at the Red Hat Summit would agree. It's a must watch for everybody who understands or wants to understand the Free Software philosophy and its importance in the society.

Prof. Eben Moglen


One Response to “The politics of the Free Software Revolution”

  1. timethief Says:

    Thank you for writing this article and providing the links. I’m a newbie trying to understand the free software revolution and it was excellent background reading for me. I now have a very clear understanding of how threatened “big business” feels about losing their lucrative monoply to freeware. I appreciate your sharing. 😀

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