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The Spectre of Free Information - Interview with Eben Moglen, Professor of Law and Legal History - FRONTLINE

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By V. Sasi Kumar, FRONTLINE, Vol: 24, Issue: 20, Oct 06-19, 2007

The Spectre of Free Information

V. Sasi Kumar

Prof. Eben Moglen is Professor of Law and Legal History at the Columbia University Law School, Founder Director of the Software Freedom Law Centre and General Counsel for the Free Software Foundation, Boston. Free Software is software that gives users the freedom to use on any number of computers, to share with others, to study and modify and to redistribute the modified version. Prof. Moglen was involved in developing version 3 of the GNU General Public Licene (the licence with which most Free Software is distributed), along with Richard M. Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Movement. He has had a rather unusual career. At 16, he helped write the first networked email system. He later worked on designing programming languages at IBM, but left the company in 1984. He did a history degree and then a law degree, and ended up teaching and writing about the roots of intellectual property law.

A friendly and jovial person, Prof. Moglen has very interesting ideas that he has expressed through his numerous lectures across the world and in his writings. During his public speech at Thiruvananthapuram on Free Software and Free Culture, he said that all patent laws, including the ones in the US, are archaic. Speaking in New Delhi in 2006, he remarked: "Anything that is worth copying is worth sharing." He has devised what he calls the Correlative Corollary to Faraday's Law: take the community, wind the net around it and spin the world, and you get information flowing through the network. Another interesting work from him is the dotCommunist Manifesto about which also he speaks in this interview which was done when Prof. Moglen was in India in June 2007. He speaks about Free Software, Free Culture and their economic and political impact in this excerpt from the interview.

Question 1: The Free Software movement started in United States. What is the status of FS there? How popular is FS there?

Prof. Moglen: Well, popular, I think, is a little hard to judge for two reasons. First because we have people who are using it and don't know that they are using it. It's inside their enterprises and/or it's inside their appliances. And they are not aware of it. Second, we have the people who know that they are using it and who have purchased the product or downloaded the product without necessarily accounting for all their copies. So what we can say is that Free Software is far more popular in the United States than what the United States is aware. Read More

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