The Future of Freedom

I’ve spent several hours reading and soaking in the post on the O’Reilly Radar Blog titled My Tongue-Lashing from Eben Moglen and it’s a lot to take in. The main point of the piece is the video where said tongue-lashing occurs. Tim O’Reilly is on the stage at the beginning dressed like he somehow got Steve Jobs and Mr. Roger’s wardrobe instead of his own, and he invites an obviously emotionally charged Moglen onto the stage for a discussion that quickly takes an unexpected and combative path.

Moglen seemed to feel betrayed and perhaps jealous at the way O’Reilly has chosen to pursue his life and some of the leadership positions O’Reilly has taken. After you weed out all of that there is a really important discussion about Freedom, not just the types of freedoms that involve copyrighted music and code, but the security and control of our data. Just the thought of having to clean up your life after an identity theft should give you an idea of how important that data is and make you question that fact of how little control you have over it.

It’s an amazing discussion and the post and resulting comments are worth the read as well, one the best that summaries everything is this one by O’Reilly himself so I’ll end with it:

“The fact that Eben claims that I’ve been neglecting talking about freedom all these years doesn’t make it true. I’ve been talking about the challenges that web applications will bring to the world of free software for the better part of ten years.

I’d suggest you read what I’ve actually written, and watch some of the talks I’ve given, before accepting Eben’s characterization of my position.

I don’t think I misunderstand Eben’s position; I do think he either misunderstands or deliberately mischaracterizes mine.

The only reason he sees this as a conflict of rights issue is that he’s framing it only as about whether or not it’s OK to for someone to make private changes to free software in a software as a service environment. I’m saying that a software as a service environment provides new challenges to those who care about users’ freedom…”

“…I do think that the free and open source communities will eventually succeed in a response — but it will be by challenging the centralized architecture of many web 2.0 databases (and by writing new licenses that have more to do with the users’ freedom to own, modify, and share their own data than to modify the software.)

There’s a lot of thinking to be done to get this right. But we won’t get there if we start by denying that there’s any problem to be solved, and insisting that anyone who says there is has no standing because he’s been talking about open source rather than freedom.”

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