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LWN: Lawrence Lessig on the DMCA and Free Software

Sep 07, 2001, 14:09 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dennis Tenney)

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Should free software authors fear being arrested in the same fashion as Dmitry Sklyarov was for writing proprietary code?

I don't think they should fear it. I think that the government strategy is now clear. They intend to make Sklyarov a scapegoat; have a couple prosecutions under the DMCA. Once they succeed in getting pretty severe penalties against Sklyarov they'll count on that scaring the rest of the people away. Right at this minute, I don't think they will be pushing any other prosecutions.

Code [Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace by Lawrence Lessig, Basic Books 1999] says that open source can be a strong offsetting factor because there is no choke point. Have subsequent events changed your opinion?

No, I still think that that is true. Whether it is likely that open source or free software will have that effect is a much more doubtful question right now. I think that things have gone pretty well up to this moment. The real fear is that the next layer of struggle, at the network layer, will have a profound tilting effect away from open source projects. If that is true then open source won't continue to provide an opportunity to check improper power.

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