Eben Moglen – Putting the F back in FOSS

Eben Moglen’s interview with Tim O’Reilly this morning was certainly eventful. I hope they’ll post video of it somewhere online, and won’t make any attempt to liveblog it.

It started off with Moglen arguing that the whole notion of a “web 2.0 era” is pure “hooey.”

Then it went downhill from there. O’Reilly seemed a bit unprepared for the confrontational nature of Moglen’s discussion.

Moglen challenged O’Reilly, arguing that while the FSF has spent the last 10 years talking about freedom and rights, O’Reilly (and by extension the whole “Open Source” movement as opposed to the “Free Software” movement) was busy making money and talking about who was going to have what IPO.

He basically argued that the FSF has “done the heavy lifting” and “carried your water” for the last decade, and that the era of Web 2.0 distraction (buzz about who is making money, who will get acquired, etc) will need to be replaced by a serious conversation about freedom.

O’Reilly asked him: What would you do with OSCON?:

Scrape the name of the thing, put freedom up there, and start talking about real freedoms- which requires a discussion about public policy and long-term consequences of all this technology we’ve all put into the world. . . . GPLv3 gives us 10 years strategic time to think about this – I’ve just given you 10 years, hope you make better use of it than you had for the last 10 years.

Moglen’s direct (and very deliberate) ad hominem provocations aside, he’s clearly hitting on an issue that is at the heart of O’Reilly’s discussion of freedom, and of what it means to preserve the kinds of freedoms open source makes possible. Where “Open Source” as a term arose at least in part in order to “keep politics out of it” Moglen did a great job this morning reminding us that politics (by which I mean public policy, legal reform, and discussions about competing rights) are exactly at the heart of it.

All this before 11am.

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