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Interviews: Ask Free Software Legal Giant Eben Moglen 56

At this summer's HOPE, Eben Moglen was one of the most incisive and entertaining speakers. But since only a small fraction of the Earth's population can fit into an aging hotel meeting room, you can watch his HOPE presentation via Archive.org on making the first law of robotics apply to cell phones. Besides being a professor at Columbia Law, former clerk in U.S. federal court as well as to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and a prolific writer, Moglen is founding director of the Software Freedom Law Center as well as the creator of the FreedomBox Foundation, and was for many years general counsel of the Free Software Foundation. Moglen has strong opinions, and a lot to say, about software licensing and freedom, copyright, patents, and (as you can see from the video linked above) about the privacy implications of always-on, always-on-us technology. Next week, I'll be meeting up with Moglen for a short interview. If you have a question for Eben, please post it below; I can't guarantee how many reader questions I'll have a chance to ask him, but the more, the merrier.
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Interviews: Ask Free Software Legal Giant Eben Moglen

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @02:25PM (#41633891)

    I thought I'd take a law degree. I was doing well, but I quit after a year.

    To put it bluntly, the US system of law is bullshit. A lawyer's job is not to make a purposive argument, as in Europe, but to get his client off on a technicality of wording. In criminal law, the impartiality of the jury is corrupted by a non-random final selection process. Regardless, law is as far as possible from something the common man is able to understand and defend himself with - though that is surely the purpose of rule of law over rule of man.

    In short, by studying the law I was giving myself an advantage which every citizen should already have.

    Hasn't the law just become a lawyer's game, today?

  • by LetterRip ( 30937 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @02:29PM (#41633943)

    It is often asserted (ie by the FSF) that exposed C/C++/Python APIs for GPL software can't be used by non GPLed code unless a specific exception has been added to the license.

    However, a non GPLed binary compatible API could be done that the plugin, etc. can be compiled against. Given that it seems like the GPL could not be enforced against driver compiled against a binary compatible API. Ie Alan Coxes recent assertion that Nvidia wasn't allowed to use a certain internal feature of the kernel should be readily made technically irrelevant, since Nvidia could create a stub binary compatible equivalent to the API to compile against, and then the user can install the driver and use it with the GPLed kernel without violating the GPL.

    Is there a flaw in this reasoning or do programmers have a way to readily use GPLed APIs as closed source without violating the GPL?

  • Bypassing the API (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cormander ( 1273812 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @02:34PM (#41633997) Homepage
    On a similar topic; what about when the code bypasses the API altogether, and writes code changes directly to memory? Things such as kernel hot patches come to mind, and more specifically, ksplice. A modification to the code on a GPLv2 program is made, but no linking or APIs are used. How bound by the GPL, if at all, would this program be?

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly