Downplaying the Expectations

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-08-10 Print this article Print

Only then would the process of lifting license text begin, and at which point "everybodys favorites are going to come out of the woodwork and we are going to drown in them for months. We are going to flounder around in thousands of proposals. Even I am going to be mystified at the sheer scale of what everybody thinks they want, and slowly we are going to evolve a way to pick through all of this and make sense of it all," he said. But Moglen appeared to downplay expectations of just how broad and sweeping those changes might be, saying that when the process was over people would say "you mean we did all that just to make these few small changes. All that work for this license. Its almost the same as the old license."
Linux founder Linus Torvalds said the GPL needs only "minor" rewrite. Click here to read more.
Moglen said he would then tell them that the final license was not the reason for all the hard work, but rather so the community would believe, care, buy-in and trust the license. "The passion they have is the beauty of this [process]. This is all going to be about a copyright license on computer programs! This matters so much because the license is about freedom and they care about freedom," he said. Asked just how much of the license had been changed to date, Moglen said that if the current working draft were put on the table as GPL 3 people would say "is that all? "Sure, we have left some hard decisions for the end, but when the first discussion draft hits the street, people will say it is conservative," he said. The reason? The FSF wanted to start off following the rules it wanted everyone else to adhere to, "and that means it is not going to look like a radical departure. It is going to look like a minor adjustment, like more of the same, as it should, because the license has been working. Im not fixing a broken roof. We are starting with a need to update, to deal with things that have changed in the last 15 years, of which there are a few," Moglen said. The big issues that would be addressed lay around trusted computing, patent and copyright issues, application service provision, Europeanization, globalization of technology, recognition of the vast array of legal systems around the world in which free software is now made, shared and distributed. Click here to read how SCO claims the GPL is unconstitutional. "Those are the big issues. There are no questions about where all the pieces are. People know. There will be business model protection for all business models. So, there will be a lot of pulling around the edges, but it is the center that we are working on. We are not going to change the license in any major way," Moglen said. But Moglen is also very aware of the enormous challenges of the task and the huge potential it has for disruption, in-fighting and controversy. While he acknowledged that it will be an enormously disruptive experience, it will also be an enormously creative experience "where they realize they are linked together, that they cant pull this apart and that it is too big to fail," he said. In a thinly veiled reference to Microsoft Corp., he said that the total number of people who wanted the GPL to fail could be counted on the fingers of one hand, just as long as one finger was used to designate "the monopoly." Could GPL 3 put additional pressure on Microsoft by the time it tries to push Windows Vista out the door? Click here to read more. Members of the community would also discover that it was very fatiguing to disagree and realize that as burdensome as it would be to come to a consensus, agreement prove better than disagreeing, Moglen said. The end result would be the realization that we are all in the boat together and it has to float for everyone." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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