Rate this page del.icio.us  Digg slashdot StumbleUpon

Summit 2007: Eben Moglen on Microsoft’s ‘be very afraid tour’


Video by Tim Kiernan. Produced by Kim Jokisch.

Perhaps you’ve seen the recent headlines. Or perhaps you saw them last summer… or the summer before that. Free and open source software infringes our patents, they say. Open source users may have to pay royalties, they say.

Is it true? Is open source really under that kind of threat?

Fortunately, we had an expert on hand to answer all these questions (and more). Eben Moglen, professor of law and head honcho at the Software Freedom Law Center, was a keynote speaker in Nashville last year. And he returned for this year’s San Diego Summit to lead two well-attended sessions on the GPL and other legal issues.

In fact, he perfectly answered the questions we found ourselves asking as this new wave of Microsoft accusations broke. And you can’t get much more timely than this: the session recorded here was filmed just last week. Wednesday, May 9th, 2007 to be precise.

21 responses to “Summit 2007: Eben Moglen on Microsoft’s ‘be very afraid tour’”

  1. James M. Susanka says:


    I would like to personally thank Eblen for all his work he has done for the FSF. I just hope his replacement is just as good.

    I think someone should deliver this to novell – they need to see this over and over and over and then maybe Ron H. will realize what he did when he contacted his “good old boy buddy” at microsoft.

    thanks for sharing the video.

    James M. Susanka

  2. donald says:

    eben in ’07!

  3. James M. Susanka says:

    sorry don’t know why I misspelled his name – I knew it was Eben but for some reason my fingers type Eblen.

    no disrespect intended and was an honest mistake.

    thanks again Eben for all your work!

  4. Fernando Dias Oliveira says:

    Eben Moglen and Richard Stallman are our voice. Red Hat are our eyes.

    Thanks for all Eben and Richard.

    Novell will disappear in short time. Novell will burn. Novell will go to hel*.

    Red Hat, with your sun Fedora, will write new rules for new order.

  5. Ed Landaveri says:

    Eben Moglen and Richard Stallman in 200 years will be considered as we consider now our Founding Fathers. I already do. We must never give in to a bully that has no other resources to make up for it’s poor inferior os & software.

    Freedom increases creativity and collaboration among mankind. Let us see the OLPC project that the adversary despises. It will bring good to that part of the world that needs a better future rather than chains for their unborn generations. Thanks from them & me.

    Finally, Judas Novell must be chocking right now with the thirthy pieces of silver given by it’s master.

    Hats Off to our Mr. Eben, Mr. Stallman, and of course: Red Hat.

  6. Chris F. says:

    fight the power!!

  7. Sum Yung Gai says:

    You said it, Mr. Landaveri. I remember watching that 2006 keynote and thinking, “wow….” And he is, of course, right. As Prof. Moglen said then, some people are afraid to talk about Freedom. But they shouldn’t be. He’s right; the politics of Freedom are what enable innovation–and therefore, business–to flourish.

    You mentioned OLPC. Along with it, especially for “that part of the world,” should also be mentioned the Red Hat-based K12LTSP, probably my favorite GNU/Linux distribution after Slackware. Red Hat people of course already have known about it for years; they helped Eric Harrison, its maintainer, to create it. For those of you who don’t know about it, though, it’s a Free–as in Freedom–way to upgrade a 40-station school computer lab to totally modern technology. As a very nice side effect, it costs only one-fifth the price of The Enemy’s “solution”. and that’s pretty much all hardware purchases.

    The reason K12LTSP is on my favorites list is because of what it can do for a school. I’ve seen the transformation, first-hand, and it’s amazing. Kids jump right into it and get busy. Kids take it home and share it. Their eyes light right up. They get it–share and share alike.

    In spite of that, it’s hard to convince some decision-makers that Freedom matters…to them. I almost gave up for a moment there, last year. Watching Moglen’s 2006 keynote got me back on track.

    OLPC laptops should integrate seamlessly right into a K12LTSP system. Think about it…the kid does the work on the K12LTSP server at school, where backups are maintained, and then accesses that same data wirelessly from home or wherever through the OLPC wireless mesh network.



  8. Christian Einfeldt says:

    Eben makes a good point here: Suing is troublesome for Microsoft. And yet people worry about being sued. So maybe we should tell Microsoft that enough is enough, and if they believe that they have valid patent claims, they should just prove it in court. So I have challenged Microsoft to sue me personally and the Free Open Source video project our community is producing, called the Digital Tipping Point. The challenge page is here:


    31 other people have also challenged Microsoft and added their names to the list:


    The story appeared on the front page of digg.com here:


    Please consider joining us, particularly if you are outside the US. The world is bigger than Microsoft’s patent claims.

  9. Pollywog says:

    Microsoft is just plain foul. If it turns out that some of their IP exists in the Linux kernel, I would suspect they paid someone to put it there.

  10. Chris F. says:

    very good talk if you care about doing something for free software
    and digital rights please join us at

  11. steveneddy says:

    Hear, hear!

    We need more voices like this speaking for our community.

  12. Tom Witko says:

    We have a powerful voice. We need to learn how to use it.
    Its funny as I was doing a lot of thinking on this before seeing this video and had a post on the Ubuntu forum a long time ago about a legal scare in that they had more money to throw around and use it as leverage.

    This is a serios issue and needs to be nipped on the but once and for all as a president that will close the doors to future leverage problems. Europe seems to be doing this and we need to follow suit.

    If we can close the door with president for the future this would shrink this issue to a managable levels for Open source.

  13. Marc says:

    Make that Judas Novell and Judas Xandros. There are large customers who will do what Eben says. Eben is a better ‘spokesman’ for the OSS community than Richard Stallman who looks like a homeless person (somebody needs to say it). Unfortunately looks are important to win over hearts and minds to our rational, persecuted, and moral point of view. (Tank, load the jump program). :)

    The OSS community at large needs to unify somewhat, at least enough to identify a large common enemy, and to start a retaliatory ‘sue me’ movement. Think the software is not valid? SUE ME! Put your money where your mouth is Microsoft! How about a million bumper stickers that all say, ‘SUE WHAT’? ???????? I could see it!

    Then for every month it goes by, someone should start counting some sort of lost monetary compensation (lost potential sales for example). Same goes for frivolous lawsuits – have them add up to some sort of class action lawsuit against MS (including NOVELL, XANDROS, and whoever else has CAVED).

    Don’t be a caveman!

  14. Henk says:

    Eben just stopped short, but I won’t. A group of people that constantly tell you you are at risk of loosing your business, that it could all of a sudden burn down, or could get infected with some bug… People that then tell you that they can protect you from all that.., that nothing will happen to you… if only you pay them a little money for this protection… Those people are known as the Mob, the Maffia, the Cosa Nostra. That practice was found illegal and criminal and was dealt with 80 years ago. When is the FBI going to roll up this gang?

  15. Choky says:

    Due to the technological evolution mankind is going through, the world society is about to realize that their social, cultural and economical order is on the brink of total change. They will learn that intellectual property in terms of earning money is of no value anymore. We are going to get rid of author rights, patents, drm and many more. We need to drmatically change our laws. People will realize there is an urge of sharing the earth’s resources in a different way by changing our ideas of sharing knowledge, earning money. Share the resources in a more acceptable way and fight the immense differences between the continents.
    As Cicero said ages ago: ‘it is an honor to be copied’.
    I add saying: And it is the way to improve the knowledge of mankind and creating solutions for future questions.
    Open Source is an early step towards total social, cultural and economical change.

  16. Dana says:


    Actually, if Windows IP is found to exist in Linux, that is probably where M$ got it from.

  17. DanO says:

    What was the answer to “what are we going to do about it?”

  18. Chuck Y says:

    Microsoft doesn’t need to sue. For most corporate types, just the threat will do the job. And, thanks to the RIAA litigation, potential home users are feeling a bit sensitive to technology that is exposed to the threat of law suits as well. More proactive press for Linux would help.

  19. FizzyCyst says:

    The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

    We went through all of this with the OS/2 shenanigans.

    The corporate world is far more computer literate nowadays.

    Besides, nobody likes bullies and once they become old and toothless…

  20. Marc says:

    I agree with Henk. Regardless of whether one is a linux user or not (maybe not even a computer user) – any U.S. citizen should care about these gestapo Mafioso attacks on our freedom s and liberties. The U.S. Constitution grants me the right to do whatever I want with my computer within certain parameters. Those parameters do not include business decisions made under the duress of intimidation and fear tactics. The fear is basically an intimidation tactic all by itself.

    To answer the question of when something will be done:

    1. When a prosecutor and/or legal team decides to pursue RICO charges against Microsoft (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization). The FBI can use many of the same charges and talking points that were used with the Mafia. The only differrences is that of the mafia using an AK-47 and Microsoft using sw patents, licensing, press releases, etc.

    2. If there aren’t enough people in the legal community who have the guts and moral courage to undertake this, then those of us in the tech community may have to do so, hiring good lawyers to help file the paperwork etc. Surely there are a few good lawyers around who want to fight the good fight.

  21. VirtualEntity says:

    After all, if you strip away all the reasons, the social movements, etc., however legitimate, ultimately, the reason for Linux’s (and the OpenSource movement in general’s) increasing success and the ever more rapidly increasing noise pollution from Micro$oft is the bare fact that Micro$oft’s products are, at best, an exercise in closed-source mediocrity, and, at worst, down right dangerous in their failures, bugs, and security issues. Evidently, as Micro$oft has figured out that they cannot ‘build a better mousetrap’, they have fallen back to the position of trying to use FUD (Fear, Unrest and Desparagement) tactics to frighten people into choosing to become their customers.

    But, ugly as it may be, the truth is the truth. Vista needs 1 GB RAM to function properly, and as much as 40 GB hard disk space–and that’s before one installs any applications. It runs most popular gaming software 10 to 20% slower than the already increasingly patch-bloated XP, if it runs the games at all, and it still has security issues, stability issues, and performance issues.

    On the other hand, my wife’s slow laptop has become a whole new speed-daemon now that I’ve installed Ubuntu on it–we have only used her copy of Windows once in the past five weeks–and that was to download video from a proprietary camera.

    Micro$oft, either produce a quality product that we WANT to use, or get out of the way, or just close up the software shop and go into the legal and marketing business, since those two things are what you still ACTUALLY good at.