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The first public discussion draft of GPL 3 was released in January. When will the second discussion draft be available? Can you give any idea of the changes that will be included in the second version?
Moglen: We will probably have a pause for redrafting in May and will be done with another discussion draft in mid-June.
I would say that the likeliest places for changes are places where there are lots of suggestions and discussion. I'm not surprised by what people are discussing, but these areas may not turn out to be the most important. A lot of changes have been proposed and if these are good, we'll take them.
We're learning, too, so there may be changes in the next draft that have not been demanded or encouraged by people, but just resulted from our having thought more about it.
Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux and the maintainer of its development kernel, has already said he won't convert the operating system to GPL 3. What do you think about this?
Moglen: For me to comment on what license someone should use would be a serious error. I give people advice about licensing, but it's up to my clients to choose their license--something that requires careful thought.
I have read, I believe, all the statements Torvalds has made in public and some statements he hasn't made in public, but I don't have any beef with him. There isn't any conflict between us.
One point that Torvalds made was that he is "less religious" about the GPL than the FSF, and considers it more about making people behave fairly, rather than limiting people's use of software. Do you agree that your attitude to freedom is almost religious?
Moglen: I think Linus' point of view on this subject is thoughtful. It can seem to someone who doesn't share our values to their full extent that it must have come from religious conviction. I don't see it as religious, but as a commitment, conviction and principle.
To me there is an importance attached to freedom, which is like the importance attached to any other social value.
Does the center also get involved in handling GPL violations?
Moglen: There are a fairly large number of reports to the FSF every year about people who are not abiding by the terms of the GPL. It's not hard to get people to abide by the license--there are not many cases where you have to write more than one letter, and there are not too many of those where you have to write more than two letters. There are few cases where a lawyer needs to get involved.
We're not turning this into a trap where lawyers make money. The license works because it's a system for gaining cooperation, not because it's a system for hurting people. You can run into bad propaganda about Stallman and the FSF, but we've never held up a business for a dime in unnecessary royalties. I had instructions from Stallman that I should never let a request for damages interfere with request for compliance.
How much do your lawyers know about software and software development?
Moglen: The lawyers who work here have high levels of technical expertise--this is a hacker law firm. Our clients are people who write computer code--they respect people in proportion to their understanding of code and tend to be impatient with people that can't write code. One reason why I was an effective lawyer for Stallman was because if I had a question about the code, I simply looked at the code.
If you're a company that has a fair amount of resources available, you don't need your lawyers to be computer programmers. Our problem is how to provide a high level of support at a low cost, so we need a high degree of technical specialization.
How much funding has the center received? What do you plan to do when this funding runs out?
Moglen: We received $4.25 million for two years from the OSDL (Open Source Development Labs, a Linux consortium funded by IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and others). The OSDL is a fund-raising agent and aggregator for us--it collects the donations of members that are interested in the success of this law firm, and gives them to us. This is good as we have an indistinct knowledge of who gives us what and it makes fund raising simple. I'm doing other fund raising as well, which is taking more of my time than I would necessarily like.
My view is that we will continue to represent an unbeatable deal. Free software is an immense pile of golden eggs, and now companies have suddenly realized that they need people to take care of the geese that lay the golden eggs.
Do you expect the law center to grow in the next few years?
Moglen: Yes. But at present we don't expect it to grow without limits. In Autumn 2004, we proposed taking it to twice the size it is now within five years, but predicted that it would remain stable after that.
We expect to see more people doing this work in time, perhaps working within organizations for salaries, or within the nonprofit sector. Our firm aims to find the best way to use a few million dollars a year to reduce risk and to produce a steady stream of young lawyers with experience in this area.
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