Moglen to Focus on the Meaning of Free Software

The co-author of the upcoming GPL Version 3 says his conference speech will target big-picture issues such as why user rights are so important to business users.

NEWTON, Mass.—Eben Moglen, the general counsel for the Free Software Foundation, wants to spend his time at the Open Source Business Conference here on Wednesday talking about more than the upcoming GPL Version 3, of which he is a co-author, but he also wants to discuss what free and open-source software means to business users and why user rights are so important to them.

Moglen, along with Diane Peters, the general counsel for the Open Source Development Labs, and Mike Milinkovich, the executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, will be talking at a session titled "GPL 3.0: Directions, Implications, Casualties."

Moglen will talk about GNU GPL (General Public License) 3.0 and the fact that the FSF (Free Software Foundation) is just weeks away from announcing the roadmap and process that will govern the release of the first draft of the rewritten GNU General Public License.

The FSF is also expected to release within the next month a process document that tells people exactly what the rules are going to be for the discussion and comment submission process around GPL Version 3.

But Moglen is not expected to give much more detail than this, given his desire to "put all that information out publicly at one time, and we expect this will take place sometime in November," he told eWEEK.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about GPL Version 3.

"I want to use my talk to discuss how copyleft, community-based development changes business operations software and their communication structures and so on.

"I will also use the time to talk about how technology that many initially thought would enable better business-to-business communication, like XML, is in danger of being locked up and vendors tied-in and reproprietized in ways that businesses constantly have to struggle against if they want to reap the full benefits of those technologies," he told eWEEK in an interview in advance of his talk.

Moglen said he would cite examples of this in his talk, including the need for instant messaging to be based on open standards and for VOIP (voice over IP) not to be monopolized or chopped into segments that could not interoperate with one another.

"I am going to draw a few simple inferences from those facts about the relation between business and its technology to show why GPL-like free software that protects its own and users freedoms is so important," he said.

Asked how much support there was for open standards in the business community, Moglen said the open standards idea has enormous vigor in it at the moment.

"I think when you see the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires an OpenDocument format, you know that there is an enormous parade that is going to form up behind the first really large public user with the gumption to demand that," he said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read more about how the proposal to standardize on the OpenDocument Format for all state offices in Massachusetts has come under scrutiny, click here.

Interoperability is a word that has found its way into the press releases and the chalk talks "of the monopoly [Microsoft] last year because it is the centerpiece of everybodys concern about 21st-century technology," Moglen said.

Next Page: Interoperability and competition.