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Free Software's Moglen canvasses his sharing message in India
New Delhi | June 06, 2007 5:05:18 PM IST
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Eben Moglen, an architect of the GNU General Public License and one of the greatest legal minds in the world of free software, is currently touring India on a mission to promote his message: "anything that is worth copying is worth sharing".

Hacker-turned-law-professor Moglen has argued that free software is a fundamental requirement for a free society over-dependent on technical devices.

Moglen, professor of law and legal history at Columbia University, served pro bono as general counsel for the Free Software Foundation. He is also the chairman of Software Freedom Law Center.

New Delhi-based lawyer Mishi Choudhary has been working to build an India branch of the Software Freedom Law Center.

Called the 'legal guardian of the Free Software movement', Moglen now oversees the crafting of the crucial General Public License, version 3.

Free software is at the other extreme away from proprietorial software. Legal protection for creating and sharing free software is seen as having become more important at times when dominant market player Microsoft has alleged patent violations by the free software camp.

The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL, or GPL) is a widely used free software license, originally written by Richard Stallman for the GNU project. Moglen is the legal brain behind strengthening the GPL and making sure it works.

GPL allows users of a free software computer programme the rights for it to be used, studied and modified without restriction, and be copied and redistributed in a way that ensure that further recipients also have these freedoms.

Version 3 of the GPL (GPLv3) is being written by Richard Stallman, with legal counsel from Eben Moglen and his Software Freedom Law Center. Moglen was in India last year too, when he revved up activities for a Software Freedom Law Centre in New Delhi.

In India this time, Moglen spends two weeks till mid-June, meeting policy makers, lawyers and software professionals.

India is itself seen as a fast-rising battleground, where the growing army of software programmers will crucially help decide the software future of the planet, whether it turns proprietorial or "free".

Others like free software movement founder Stallman and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have also been making repeated trips to India in recent years.

Free software enthusiasts term proprietorial software "unfree" and the political influence of this technology movement is visible from the logo of the Free Software Foundation-India, which has a computer-age CD shaped in the form of a spinning-wheel charkha (the symbol of Indian independence) and a motto which says "weave your own code".

Moglen holds a discussion on 'The Death of Proprietary Culture' at Thiruvananthapuram (June 6) and holds an address again on software patents in New Delhi (June 9).

On June 11, he moves to Hyderabad, to address the legal fraternity at the Andhra Pradesh High Court and give a talk at the NALSAR University of Law.

"One of the purposes of his visit is setting up (of the Software Freedom Law Centre in New Delhi)," said Free Software Foundation-India campaigner Arun M.

In Thiruvananthapuram there will also be a symposium on June 6 on "Patents, Copyrights and Knowledge Commons" organised by Kerala State Planning Board, Kerala State IT Mission and Free Software Foundation of India, organisers of the event announced.

While speaking in New Delhi, during his August 2006 visit, Moglen had remarked: "Anything that is worth copying is worth sharing." He also argued: "The more we give away, the richer we become."

He argues that the idea of proprietary software is as ludicrous as having "proprietary mathematics" or "proprietary geometry". This would convert the subjects from "something you can learn" into "something you must buy".

Moglen has criticised what he calls the "reification of selfishness". He has said: "A world full of computers which you can't understand, can't fix and can't use (because it is controlled by inaccessible proprietary software) is a world controlled by machines."

He also disapproves of trends that result in "excluding people from knowledge", and has called for a "sensible respect for both the creators and users" of the software code. (IANS)

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