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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- SnapLogic: "Eben Moglen Whacks Tim O’Reil

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- SnapLogic: "Eben Moglen Whacks Tim O’Reilly! "
Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2007 14:18:32 +0200

Eben Moglen Whacks Tim O’Reilly! 

Posted 24 July, 2007 by Chris in Open Source, GPL 

I was at the OSCON Execuitive Breifing today and was looking forward to
hearing Eben Moglen speak about Open Source licensing issues. The GPLv3
was recently released and a draft of the Affero license is open for
comments. I think the GPLv3 is a good but flawed license, and the Affero
license in it’s current form is a complete joke.

It seemed like rich fodder for an interesting discussion.

I really like Eben. I’ve heard him speak several times and he’s often
the smartest man in the room.

Today, however, I think it must have been Eben’s doppleganger because he
whacked Tim O’Reilly. In front of more than 100 people!

It was embarrassing. It started the minute he sat down. 

At first I thought it was simply old friends giving each other a hard
time but soon it was clear that Eben had an agenda and was using the
venue to make his point. I don’t have any problem with a speaker having
a point of view and arguing it vigorously, but when it turns personal
and vitriolic they’ve clearly cross the line.

I think this was clear to the audience as well. How else could you
intrepret statements like:

You spend to much time with your billionaire friends 
You’ve wasted the past 10 years trying to make money while freedoms are
under attack 
This Web 2.0 stuff is silly, ‘thermal noise’ 

And lots of other zingers that I can’t remember (comment or send me an
email, please). They were said not in a casual, ironic sort of way, but
in a thoughtful, pointed downright mean spirited way. 

I felt uncomfortable just listening to the conversation and it was clear
that many in the room felt the same way. Tim was a gracious host and
gave his invited guest his full attention and asked how he could help
address the issues, at which time Eben replied ‘Take down your name (the
large O’Reilly sign behind the stage) and start promoting freedoms.” 

Tim was speechless (or so it seemed).

What bothered me most about Eben diatribe was the outrageous duplicity
expressed in his rhetoric and the actions of the FSF regarding the ASP
loophole in the GPLv3. I even asked him about this. I told him his
rhetoric seems hollow given how the ASP loophole could have been a big
step forward in addressing some of the concerns he has.

I know better than to argue with Eben about any of this, but his
response seem myopic and self serving. He basically said that closing
the loophole would infringe on certain peoples rights and he didn’t see
any way to preserve everyone’s rights, so they left that problem for
another day.

Which is a total cop out.

Rights are in conflict everywhere we look, but that doesn’t mean we
don’t have laws that favor some rights over others. Look at our tax
code! Heck, that’s what our judicial system is for; to resolve these
kinds of conflicts. The GPL is a friggin license, not a policy
statement. They could put whatever they wanted in there. If Eben’s fears
loom as large as he says they do, he should have acted upon them using
the single biggest tool he had at his disposal, but no, he chose not to.
Rather, he chose to ambush Tim O’Reilly.

In his later posting Chris elaborated:
(More on Eben and Open Source Licenses)

Lost in the discussion (here <>, here
here <> and here
<>) on Eben
Moglen’s session with Tim O’Reilly on Licensing in the Web 2.0 Era was
what was actually discussed. 

Tim believes that since the world is rapidly headed toward a more
centralized computing model with power and control maintained by the
on-line services like Google, eBay, Amazon, Salesforce, Facebook,
MySpace, Flickr, etc. (i.e. Web 2.0), Open Source licenses don’t matter
much anymore. 

Eben, on the other hand believes that the pendulum is swinging the other
way toward individuals controlling more and more of their own on-line
activity and therefore licenses matter very much. 

He further believes the consolidation we see happening today is merely
an aberration that will correct itself once we all realize the control
these services hold is dangerous and threatening to our freedoms and we
systematically reject them.

Fundamental to Eben’s argument is that we have the power to reject them

1) Today’s laptop computers have capabilities of the most powerful
supercomputer of 20 years ago and, 
2) Free software will provide the means by which this will be possible.

Therefore, since the compute problem is being pushed out to the
endpoints (i.e. users), and not gravitating toward the center (i.e.
services), licenses do matter. Matter a lot. 

Implicit in this argument, I believe, is that since we have the power,
we also have the desire and skill and will also take action. I say
implicit because we never really did get down to this level of detail in
the session.

He’s more eloquent and convincing on these points than my simple
description, but independent of these other factors, Moore’s law
trajectory is one of the major tenets of his argument.

I am not convinced.

I strongly believe that in the future (1, 3, 5, 10 yrs??) there will be
more centralization of services/data/info, not less. The trend we are
seeing today is not an aberration, but a secular shift in computing.
None of Eben’s arguments sway me on this. In particular, his Moore’s Law
argument is completely specious. The premise that the growth in compute
supply (i.e. CPU performance) shifts the equilibrium toward the edge
would be more convincing if there was some mention of the compute
demand. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear Eben mention even once the
effect of compute demand.

Empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests that demand has outstripped
supply and has indeed shifted the equilibrium, but toward a more
centralized compute model, undermining a major element of Eben’s thesis. 

Yes, my laptop is a 2GHz, 2GB dual core device that’s 1,000 times more
powerful than early super computers, but today I’ve also got a Terra
Byte of data that I’ve got to manage. That’s 1,000,000 times the data
that I had to manage on my computer from 20 years ago. I’m getting
buried under three orders of magnitude more data. 


Advances in software might make it feel like only two orders of
magnitude, but it still hurts. A lot.


"Mathematics is primarily a language for ensuring reliable results 
in human social activity. "

         -- Columbia Professor Eben Anarcho-Dot Communist Moglen

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