Cries for help go out as open source mogul's radar breaks
A man in crisis
OSCON How appropriate that we caught Chairman Tim O'Reilly ogling Portland's tram schedule just a few minutes before the Pirate Party's founder Rickard Falkvinge took the stage at O'Reilly's own conference. Chairman Tim plotted his escape from OSCON, as Falkvinge prepared to talk to the people about things that matter.
O'Reilly seemed to miss the crucial issues of the day at every turn, during OSCON.
He peppered attendees with relentless Web 2.0 talk, thrusting Facebook, Flickr and Wikipedia at them. The OSCON crowd applauded every time someone ridiculed the Web 2.0 moniker. That didn't stop Chairman Tim.
"I know people complain about the name, but it's a good handle for a set of phenonomen," O'Reilly said, during one OSCON speech.
That very speech served as O'Reilly's attempt to make up for his evisceration as the hands of Free Software Foundation attorney Eben Moglen. One day earlier, Moglen charged O'Reilly with wasting too much time on hem lines, haircuts and the latest fluffy Web 2.0 start-up that looks like it might be acquired for a ridiculous amount of cash. O'Reilly had no counter on the actual day of Moglen's attack, but thought about the issues overnight.
Refreshed, O'Reilly called Moglen's demand that we pay more attention to freedom and not just the success of business "an important message." A moment later he added that "it's important to recognize that businesses matters" too. Businesses shape our culture. Businesses are a big part of successful activism. Tim's been "noodling" and "brain dumping" too. "People should be paying a lot of attention to Wikipedia." The freedom to take your data away rather than controlling the rights to your source code might dominate the Web 3.0 meme. Hadoop! "I got a call from David Filo (co-founder of Yahoo!) last night saying Yahoo! is really behind this."
Back on this planet, Falkvinge talked to the OSCON crowd about why copyright holders such as movie studios or record labels should not be able to pass laws that let them sort through our electronic communications, hunting for a dreaded MP3 making its way from one friend to another. Shall we let law enforcement or media moguls examine our e-mails sent to doctors, lawyers or employers?
"On the one end of the scale is one income source for one industry," Falkvinge said. "On the other end of the scale are the basic foundations of our democracy."
The Pirate Party has enjoyed modest but rising political success in Sweden, urging that copyrights should have nothing to do with private communications, DRM is evil, patents are even more evil, privacy is good, due process is good and transparent government is even better, Falkvinge said, before adding that the party supports shortening copyright lifespans as well.
The OSCON members greeted Falkvinge with repeated "Arghs!," and the party will need this support as it seeks to impact EU elections in 2009 and national elections in 2010. You can make party donations here. Sweden does not regulate the contributions.
O'Reilly may have missed Falkvinge's speech, but he did find time to blog about Microsoft's decision to submit a pair of software licenses for Open Source Initiative (OSI) approval.
"This is a huge, long-awaited move," Chairman Tim wrote. "It will be earthshaking for both Microsoft and for the open source community if the licenses are in fact certified as open source licenses.
"Microsoft has been releasing a lot of software as shared source . . . If this is suddenly certified as true open source software, it will be a lot harder to draw a bright line between Microsoft and the open source community."
Er, really? Will it be so hard? Of course not.
Enter open source CMS maker Alfresco's Matt Asay.
(Tim) calls this 'huge, long-awaited,...and earthshaking.' It's actually none of the above, but it is welcome.
It will do little to blur the 'bright line between Microsoft and the open-source community,' as Tim suggests it will. That bright line is increasingly drawn by Microsoft, and not by the community. This will not erase patent FUD, for example, from the collective consciousness. But I suppose it does help Microsoft to start acting like a full participant, rather than an outsider.
The real news in this is that Microsoft recognizes what many "open source" companies apparently do not. Namely, that while others have groused about the OSI being out of touch with their efforts to dilute the value of "open source," Microsoft clearly understands the importance of the OSI.
But who has time for real news when there are OSCON Diamond Sponsors to feed? You'll note the Microsoft post was the only one Tim produced during the conference.
That's right. O'Reilly failed to push out a single word when SugarCRM revealed that it would put its flagship software under GPLv3.
Moglen found some time to document the move in an Op-Ed for BusinessWeek.
"A momentous event occurred in the history of software this week - though some may have been too consumed with the stock market malaise or hand-wringing over Apple's iPhone sales to notice," Moglen wrote.
"SugarCRM said it is adopting version 3 of the GNU General Public License (known throughout the global IT industry as GPLv3) as the copyright license for its flagship customer-relationship management software. It's a crucial endorsement of the first update in 16 years of what has become the charter of the free software movement, and SugarCRM is to be applauded."
The editorial goes on to emphasize that SugarCRM's adoption of GPLv3 cuts through all of the anti-business arguments surrounding the new license from certain quarters.
But we'll not waste our time pretending to be as eloquent as Moglen. Read the piece for yourself . . . Tim. ®