Free Software, What is it About?

A Bold GNU
HeadIf you've ever listened to a Free Software bigot ranting about the evils of software patents, monopolies, and the like you might be forgiven for wondering what it's all about. Surely these are fringe views and there is not much to it for the bulk of us?

One of the large figures in the free software world is Eben Moglen, a professor of law and legal history at Columbia University and heavily involved in defending and extending the GNU General Public License. In the video below Eben Moglen is speaking at a lecture for the Scottish Society for Computers and Law titled, "The Global Software Industry in Transformation: After GPLv3." The video is 80 minutes long (about 160MB) but Moglen manages to eloquently encapsulate why Free Software is important in the first 20 minutes. If you are in the slightest interested it is well worth the time.

[flv: 320 263]

The event is also available as streaming audio

Eben Samuel Johnson, bishop Mial Eben Lilley, politician Eben Jenks I found this talk one of the most persuasive arguments for the freedom of software (and knowledge in general). In addressing the reproduction of knowledge in digital form Moglen notes that the incremental cost of further copies is approaching zero and follows:

The consequence of those changes is the onset of a very powerful moral question. If it is possible, easily possible, to give to each human being who wishes it, anything of utility or beauty in our world of civilisation, if it is possible to deliver any such entity anywhere at any time at low cost or at zero cost, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything she wants?

This argument really appeals to me.


  1. The video is sourced from The Internet Archive and is released under the Creative Commons: Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 by Al Broom, Valley Technology.
  2. The GNU image is by Aurelio A. Heckert, release under the Free Art License. From