Muli Ben-Yehuda's journal

June 10, 2003

Haifa University Law Faculty Workshop on Open Source

Filed under: Uncategorized — Muli Ben-Yehuda @ 8:44 PM

The Haifa University Law Faculty workshop on Open Source and Peer Production took place today. When I registered, I didn’t have any high hopes. After all, a bunch of lawyers talking about Open Source, how interesting could it be? as it turned out, plenty.

I got there in the morning, and met gby in the foyer. We were joined by Alon Altman, had a few adventures looking for the right room, and eventually found it. Pretty soon, it turned into a semi Haifux meeting – Oron Peled showed up, and orrd (who wrote his account of the event on advogato).

First up was an opening lecture by the workshop’s moderator, Prof. Yochai Benkler. Prof. Benkler’s lecture showed a deep and impressive understanding of hacker culture and open source and free software. He approached these subject, which I’m intimately familiar with, using economic and social theories. While he didn’t have any amazing insights, his explanations and models were illuminating. I’m sorry but I don’t remember specifics – perhaps the slides he used will show up on his website eventually. The abstract is available here.

Then we had a short break, and then Gilad took the stage and responded. He talked about one of his favorite themes, the similarities between lawyer culture and free software, which I hope he will one day write up for Hamakor. Then someone else, a Dr. from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya took the stage, and then the audience had a chance to respond. Up until now, the audience was inquisitive wrt Open Source, if not downright supportive. But the next person to speak, a Prof. from Tel Aviv University (?) spread the usual unsubstantiated FUD – Linux is not secure, anyone can change it, it has no commercial backing, no “parents”, bla bla bla. orrd answered part of his allegations (quite well, IMHO, although not perfectly), and then a high ranking officer from the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) computer center took the stage and responded brilliantly. He countered the TAU Prof. on a point by point basis, and did it so well that when he was through, we applauded.

Then Prof. Benkler spoke again, on the dangers of Intellectual Property. His main thesis was that when information or knowledge can be considered property, those who have it in large am mounts keep benefiting from restricting its use (and thus have continuing incentive to hoard more of it, a cycle that feeds on itself), and those who don’t have it suffer. He mentioned the DMCA, UCITA and friends as prime example, and Orr concluded the workshop with a passionate plea to attendants to help prevent such laws in .il.

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