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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- "GPL advocates urged <strikethrough>told<

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- "GPL advocates urged <strikethrough>told</strikethrough> to pay for love"
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2007 14:51:01 +0100

A seminar to explain the nuances of GPLv3, alas, postponed.

GPL advocates urged <strikethrough>told</strikethrough> to pay for love
By Dan Goodin in San Francisco ? More by this author

22 Feb 2007 02:14

Freedom is just another word for $7,000

The folks looking after the general public license (GPL) are fond of
portraying themselves as the humble shepherds of the free and open
source software movement. Their job, among other things, is to provide
an open and transparent means for protecting the freedom to review,
copy, tinker with and redistribute code.

So fervent is their love of freedom and all that is free they dubbed one
of their organizations The Software Freedom Law Center and the other The
Free Software Foundation.

So it came as a surprise to learn that the SFLC - the enforcement arm of
the GPL - plans to offer a private and pricey seminar designed to give a
small group of handpicked legal eagles a head start in untangling the
confusion that is sure to result from the first revision to the GPL in
more than 15 years. The price for the two-day event: $7,000.

An email advertising the invitation-only seminar promises it will
provide a "carefully-selected" group of attorneys with "exclusive
insight" into the final wording of GPLv3, its interpretation and "the
likely enforcement strategy of" of the Free Software Foundation and
other FOSS rights holders.

Media representatives for the SFLC and the FSF declined to comment
except to say that the event, originally scheduled for the end of this
month, has been postponed to an as-yet undetermined date. (This means
your reporter is relying on his informed readers for details about this
and other covert activities of the FSF or SFLC. Send your email here
[] - confidentiality
assured, free of charge.)

Like plenty of interests in the FOSS community, the FSF and the SFLC
have encountered their share of critics over the years. True to form,
the detractors wasted no time in mixing metaphors designed to show
what's wrong with the groups' hosting of an event as costly and
secretive as this one.

"If it were a political invitation-only event, I would say people are
buying themselves into the Lincoln Bedroom, especially if they're trying
to keep it hush-hush," said Michael Graham, an intellectual property
attorney who has taken issue with some of the changes the FSF is
proposing for version 3 of the GPL. Attendees "are going to get from the
horse's mouth what the horse is going to do to enforce this new code."

Most other FOSS curmudgeons declined to grumble on the record, insisting
that their comments would only increase the chances that their clients
would be targeted by the FSF and SFLC. With the veil of anonymity,
however, they suggested the $7,000 price tag - about five times the
going rate of other legal seminars - amounted to little more than
protection money.

Large companies professing their love for open source in public will
want to go ahead and send a few lawyers to this conference for
educational, political and back-rubbing due diligence.

Greg Aharonian, whose best work has always been exposing the more absurd
extremes of intellectual property law, was the only other individual we
found willing to have his name attached to his rant. "Go rent Goodfellas
and use some of that language to describe it," he said.

To be fair, the aspirations of FSF and the SFLC far outstrip their
means. Their combined revenue for the most recent years they filed tax
returns was a little less than $2.5m, which isn't a lot when you're
fighting for truth and justice in the world of FOSS.

But even if the seminar merely amounts to an attempt by two worthy
groups to fund their activities, there's another reason to question the
fund raiser. The whole point of contract law is to draft documents with
little or no ambiguity in them. Charging $7,000 to explain the finer
points of a license you've spent years bringing to fruition isn't the
best way to convince a skeptical public you are the most competent of
stewards. Or the most freedom loving.®


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