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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Open Source Radio

In my Strange Bedfellows post I said that "the party in power will oppose whatever threatens that power." Well, this Forbes article is another example of that theory.

The spread of open source is a threat to established broadcasters, not to mention cellular telephone companies and other holders of FCC licenses. By using open-source software and low-powered “mesh networks” that can sniff out open frequencies and transmit over them, Moglen says, “we can produce bandwidth in a very collaborative way,” including transmitting video and telephone conversations that would normally ride on commercial networks.

And the broadcasters are no doubt worried.

“There's a reason there is the FCC--to protect the integrity of the broadcast band,” says Dan Wharton, spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, D.C. “We're very concerned about the potential for interference.”

And what sayeth the Open Source crowd?

“You cannot regulate code without going through the First Amendment-type balancing tests we have for any other type of speech,” says Cindy Cohn, a lawyer at the Electronic Freedom Foundation in San Francisco. “Code is speech.”

And major companies, mainly Microsoft competitors, are supporting the open source folks.

And companies like Cisco, IBM and Computer Associates are hastening the process along, partly as a way of competing with Microsoft. They've even put $4.3 million into a public interest law firm [Columbia Law School Professor Eben] Moglen installed in New York offices to enforce the GPL.

Folks, we are living in an exciting time. And lawyers will surely play a part in it.


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