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Google, Other Linux Developers "Must Share Code"

Software Freedom Law Center Chairman Outlines View

If you build your business on Linux, then you should share your code, according to Eben Moglen, chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center. This view was expressed in a presentation given by Moglen at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco. The Center is based in New York, and counts noted Stanford University professor Laurence Lessig among its directors. Moglen is also a professor at Columbia University.

Moglen's remarks come in the context of the final weeks of completion of Version 3 of the GNU General Public License, for which Moglen is providing legal counsel to GPL creator Richard Stallman. The GPL 3 is currently in a third draft, completed in March 2007. Its language takes a strong stand against cross-patent agreements such as a deal announced earlier this year by Microsoft and Novell.

Google spokespeople have pointed out that the company committed to doing no evil has contributed to open source projects (including Linux), but Moglen makes it clear that his view is that the community comes first. "(Google has) ethical and community responsibilities to return at least those modifications that are not critical to their business and that are of general value to the community," Moglen said. "We will see over time whether there are additional measures necessary in order to secure cooperation in the community."

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