GPL'ing stuff out from my brain from GPLv3 Conference

24 Aug 2006
Posted by Senthil Kumaran.S

Yesterday I attended GPLv3 conference at IIM Bangalore, which is the fourth international conference. It is a great news to fellow Indian's that India is catching up in pace with the Free Software philosophy. I make the above statement because, some time back when I saw a movie named "The Code" in that one of the press person from India asked a question about "Involvement of developers in India for free software development" to Linus Torvalds. His reply was "Not much contrbution from Indians". But today I would rather say that Indians have convinced the Free Software community to make them understand that Indians are really contributing a _lot_ to this community. Though it is bad to introduce Linus Torvalds when I want to explain about GPLv3,
this was the first thing came into my mind when I heard that 4th International Conference of GPLv3 is gonna be hosted in India.

Being a Free software geek/enthusiast/et.al., I felt really great to hear Free Software philosophy from the man who gave the philosophy.

It was around 8:30 am in the morning when myself and Arun Ponniah (Sap) left our room from Koramangala to attend the GPLv3 conference in Sap's Pulsar. We managed Bangalore traffic and reached IIMB at around 9:15 am. Then in the gate we were asked to show our id card and tick against our name in a sheet, which consisted of only _registered_ participants.

When we entered the auditorium a guy (Chineese/Japaneese not sure) was displaying his hardware which had a small electronic display and scrolled information about GPLv3. He said it is his creation and it is GPLed.

At around 9:50 the hero of the event Richard M Stallman (RMS) popped into the auditorium.
Dr. Nagarjuna, who is the chairman of Free Software Foundation India gave the schedule of the days events. Then RMS took over and he appeared slightly upset on the crowd which turned up. The first thing he told was "There are so many seats unoccupied, dont ever say people not to attend since we have less number of seats", and he asked the people who were there, to message to their friends whom they know to invite them to the event.

Then he went into the topic GPLv3. When he started he forgot two important terms "Propagate and Convey" which the key terms for GPLv3. He jokingly remarked "See I ve forgot the terms which I shouldn have, which shows am getting old". He started explaining the some of the most important changes in GPLv3 from GPLv2.

RMS says that Digital Rights Management (DRM) is an evil and it can pose a very big threat in the future. He uses the term Digital Restriction Management to refer DRM. Refer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Rights_Management to get an insight about DRM. When somebody raised a question about whats your opinion about Linus not supporting GPLv3 he responded that Linus had never supported Free Software Movement in the past and he wont in the future too. There is something known as "Tivolization" which is the part which Linus is against. Tivolizing is a process in which a box (an hardware entity) captures all the TV programs and makes it available to the user, whenever he wants to use it. Some vedors makes such kinds of boxes and most of them have GNU/Linux inside it, on top which they run their applications. The problem here is most of the companies which provide these hardware put some checksum on these boxes which restricts the user from modifying the underlying software's source code and run it again. They will allow particular copies of software which the company provides and not the modified ones by the user to run, though it is technically feasible on the hardware which is a violation according to GPL. RMS says that if the vendor wants the user not to change it then let him burn it in a ROM or flash memory and give the box, at which point it becomes a hardware and GPL has nothing to do with that. But those companies dont burn it in ROM but only put these nasty checksum at the software level and keep the right to modify the software with them, which violates the principles of Free Software philosophy (refer http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html).

Another thing which GPLv3 wants to insist is minimize the threat by imposing software patents. The painful part in the conference is most of the people who attended considered it as a local Glug meeting and posted silly questions, but RMS who is a straight forward person just pointed out that your question is not worth to be asked in this conference. RMS answered to a lot of questions. RMS was very careful in using the words he spoke. The thing which I admired a lot was whenever a person said Linux OS he said it is GNU/Linux system, it is true and required to make people understand that it is GNU who gave us all these facilities which we leverage today and shouldn put a wrapper and say Linux. Also RMS gave a huge explanation why we shouldn call it as Linux and call the Operating system as GNU/Linux, I was very proud to say that the same explanation I ve given n number of times to people to whom I ve preached GNU philosophy.

RMS said in India, Kerala is the only state which has accepted and adopted Free Software for school education and gradually implying it to students of grade 8 and extending it to the upper grade students too.

I was unable to attend the afternoon session due to some personal reasons. Anyway had a nice time there :)

After returning I had a lot of discussions about Free software with my friends and room mates. I was a bit worried about why people are not accepting Free Software philosopy and say we are speaking communism if we speak Free Software? and to get cleared I consulted my guru who preached and GPLed my brain, he said once in near future when people lose their Freedom to use software then they realize the need for this philosophy, and again start joining the community, which will take another 30 years if they lost this feeling of Free Software. My guru quoted a phrase which was the one even I was thinking for a long time,

"If speaking of freedom is communism., so be it., I'll be a communist"

This feeling of Freedom should be in everyone's mind and we need to get our freedom, for which we need to sync with Free Software Philosophy and be a part of the "Real Movement" :)

"Free the Code, Free the user"

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