Free software 'not anti-capitalist'

Free software 'not anti-capitalist'

Summary: Eben Moglen, the legal counsel of the FSF, claims that free software is 'an immense pile of golden eggs' — and companies need to take care of the geese that lay them


Free software lawyer Eben Moglen has denied that free software is incompatible with capitalism, a claim that has been made by various companies, including Microsoft and SCO.

"The idea that we are anti-capitalist is a stupid idea. Free software is not anti-capitalist. Capitalism now makes a great deal of money out of free software and it voluntarily pays us money to make, improve and lawyer for it," said Moglen, in an interview with ZDNet UK published on Wednesday.

Moglen, who is the Free Software Foundation's legal counsel, also argued that intellectual-property laws are not a central tenet of capitalism.

"Some people decided to make knowledge into property. That wasn't capitalism speaking; that was a greedy scam. There wasn't anything normatively acceptable about it. It contravened the freedom of speech and ideas," he said.

As well as the FSF, Moglen also works with a number of other free software projects through the Software Freedom Law Center, which he helped launch last year.

This organisation received $4.25m (£2.4m) funding from the Open Source Development Labs for its first two years, and Moglen is confident that it will be able to get additional funding when this runs out.

"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 realised that they need people to take care of the geese that lay the golden eggs," he said.

The full interview with Eben Moglen, where he discusses his work with the Law Center, his plans for expansion, and his philosophy on software freedom, can be read here.

Topics: Apps, Software Development

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  • Bravo!!!

    "Free software is anti-capitalist" is only true if you view the entire business world through the rose-colored peepholed glasses of a proprietary software vendor. Remember that proprietary software only came about when the computer hardware manufacturers back in the mainframe days realized they could make even larger profits if they supplied application software to their customers rather than the customers writing it themselves.

    When viewed under a macro lens rather than micro, it's proprietary software that's anti-capitalist because it diverts investment dollars from capital improvements in the core business of producing products or services. Software is just a tool. It's a necessary cost of doing business today, so economic theory dictates that you reduce costs where you can. Only if your core product IS software can you view it any other way. Until the world's economy is based on producing software, the only anti-capitalist software is non-free, proprietary software.
  • It seems to me that true capitalism has been usurped by corporate parasitism in the form of international monopolism. Big business wants to own us - we are nothing more than a resource to them. Free stuff, and freedom, "ist verboten" in the New World Order (now where have I heard that euphemism before?).