Lawyers are our friends too…

Posted on by Chris Warburton

… Well, at least some are. Check out Prof. Eben Moglen’s latest talk stunning, as usual. You should check out his other talks too, because they are great to watch as he’s a very powerful and persuasive speaker. Prof. Moglen was an accomplished programmer even when 14, and after restudying Law and History he became a Professor at Columbia University in the USA. He has a laudable vision which his work attempts to make real, a world of privacy and anonymity, freedom to use and improve all works represented in a digital fashion (ie. software, music and any other art form which can be shared freely for no cost thanks to computers and the Internets), a world where communication is uncensored, anyone can use the commonly owned electromagnetic spectrum thanks to computerised devices which allow multiple overlapping signals to coexist without interference, all described in his famous Dotcommunist Manifesto, and is steadily working towards such a world by firstly ensuring that the right of the individual to privacy outside of state control is maintained (eg. making sure encryption is not made illegal) which he accomplished in the early 90s by acting as defence for Phil Zimmerman’s Pretty Good Privacy encryption system when it was attacked by the US government (these days the GNU Privacy Guard is a Free Software, and therefore more widespread, descendant of this), he then became lawyer for Richard Stallman’s Free Software Foundation, and has recently stepped down as a leading figure in the FSF to nurture his newly created Software Freedom Law Centre. He has also worked with Larry Lessig and others on the Creative Commons project. Basically he knows exactly what he wants, and knows exactly how to get it.

Today I also found a humourus Google TechTalk video on a similar topic. Called 7 Ways To Ruin A Technological Revolution it outlines how the legal systems of the world seem to be blinkered towards “must make up new rights for authors, must extend and enforce those rights” without ever thinking of other ways to keep the flow of new and innovative ideas going, and even denying the existence of evidence that contradicts their purely empirical thinking. The quote from the World Intellectual Property Organisation is particularly amusing, but also quite horrifying, about how Open Source software should not be taken into account when dealing with “intellectual property” (copyright, patents, trademarks, etc.) law, since it doesn’t fit the WIPO’s world view about protecting and extending copyrights and such. I’m sorry but this seems just like the masses of FUD coming from corporations like Microsoft who claim Free Software/Open Source software don’t respect intellectual property. Oh of course, because free software projects, which have all of their code freely available for anyone to study and look for any such infringements, and places such code under a series of copyright licenses (thus making Free and Open Source software intellectual property) don’t have any respect for the system which makes them
work, and of course corporations like Microsoft and other proprietary software organisations, which keep their code hidden from any investigators, are the pillars of high moral standing that keeps the software industry respectful of the rights of others.