Capital wasn't what the system required to operate. What it required
to operate was proof of concept, and it could be scratched. Running
code - something that began scratching the itch, however badly, and a
community of people who wanted to see it through.
So what GPL3 meant was, proof of concept + running code + presence of
community. The concept had been proven already, by GPL2. That is, the
substantive concept - we could make a set of rules for sharing that
would make it possible to produce software all around the world that
would be of ultimately high value, but could be offered to anyone free
of charge - and provided with immense freedom to study, modify, and
There was running code - we worked very hard for almost 2 years to
produce a first discussion draft of GPL3, which we unveiled on January
18th of 2006 at MIT - and there was a community; many communities, in
fact. But their convocation for the purpose of legislation was a
unique event. Every other week for the past 18 months, we've convened
a conference call of 21 of the largest IT Vendors in the world. Those
companies, whose names are household familiar in every household and
business familiar in every business.
Working in teams that varied from one person from some of the
companies, to five or six in others. Carefully studying every single
word, commenting as though their lives depended upon it - as in some
of the businesses they did. On every detail of the license's
functioning in the global IT economy. We also convened, every other
week, a conversation among 24 of the largest users of software in the
world. Banks and brokerages, government agencies, and the lawyers who
acquire software on their behalf.
We consulted every single week with the leadership of large free
software projects around the world, some of whom use GPL and some of
whom only interact with GPLd code. We spoke to hackers of enormous
influence in the community, influence they have gained by their skill
in programming and by their willingness to share. By their
selflessness in helping others learn, and by the extraordinary wit and
intellect whereby they have produced miracles out of thin air for all
of us to use for years.
We conducted public meetings on every continent, save Antarctica. We
negotiated ceaselessly with people over what they needed, what they
wanted, what they doubted, what they feared, what their concerns were,
and in the end - that's now I'm speaking of, this week, between now
and Friday, the license gets itself finished and comes out the door as
a final product - in the end, we got agreement. We got consensus.
Those who predicted at the beginning of this process that it would
dissolve into flame wars, or bad netiquette, or some screeching
meltdown benefiting only the monopolists were wrong.
I admit that there were days when I feared that they might be right -
it was no cakewalk - but everyone who engages in legislation knows
that it's never a cakewalk, and almost never pretty. What is
interesting about the legislative experience we've just gone through
is how little of it, however, had the ultimate ugliness of legislation
as we know it in the public sphere.
This is only the gist of the talk, read the full transcript
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