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LinuxMedNews: Innovation, Open Source and Lessig

Sep 21, 2000, 07:38 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Wayne Wilson)

[ Thanks to Saint for this link. ]

"Lessig starts by observing that the recent rise of the Internet and Open Source software has created the most innovation any of us have seen in our life times. Whether this is a greater transformation than the industrial revolution is unimportant, because for us, living at the edge of the new millenium, it is the most transforming process within memory. One of the significant principles involved is embedded in the original design of the Internet. That is end to end transparency, i.e. that the network exercises no control over content. One needs to ask no permission to devise and implement a new scheme of software over the Internet. This decision to disable control by other actors or competitors enabled certain features which we now take as somehow embedded within the nature of the Internet: free speech, privacy, free flow of content and freedom from local regulation. The important observation is that these things are a consequence of an architectural decision...."

"For Lessig, the importance of open source is not in it's increased efficiency, it's increased robustness, but rather in it's use of commons to foster innovation. This should really be obvious to anyone engaged in producing software. Complete software applications do not emerge cut from whole cloth, rather they build upon a long and complicated foundation of previous software. The more of these building blocks that are available, the easier it is to build new software applications. These building blocks can be painstaking collected and developed as private property, enforcing a control point upon what can and can not be allowed, or they can be part of the commons; unregulated and uncontrolled. If you don't like the particular direction a software system is taking, you just start your own variation. Someone says that Z is impossible, you just go and try to do it anyway."

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