[Fsf-friends] On National Conference on Free Software at Kochi

CK Raju ck.thrissur at gmail.com
Tue Nov 18 11:10:34 IST 2008

In a debate on question of "free vs non-free" or "role of non-free in free
conferences", this one is drifting towards private and personal references
which can be avoided. Let not Novell get off the hook by stirring trouble
here. There are countless private conferences and symposiums going around
nearby which promote themes of non-free and patents. No free software
activist goes there to register protest.

Differences of opinion are usually accorded highest priority in a democratic
institution, as they may be revealing something very surprising or
innovative - silencing and subjugating are hallmarks of despotic or
autocratic institutions. No one expects the entire rank and file of
organisers to be aware of non-free designs; Novell could have very well
evaded such a public scrutiny before gaining entry here, especially when it
has very little public presence in Kerala.

Free Software conferences serve many purposes and we can accept that one
such method in revealing or knowing about non-free intrusions could be
through some kind of non-violent protest - stickers, posters and T-shirts
are hallmarks of FS protests. Now many of us know what Novell does, and such
an exposure on Novell coincides  perfectly with the theme of our public
conference in disseminating concepts on Free Software.

Since public institutions have a say on private lives, it cannot be beyond
criticism. Just like "divine rights" cannot be placed over "human rights",
it would be equally suicidal if we uncritically submitted to "political
rights" of any party. After all, political parties gain power only after
they appeal before citizens - notably the poor-off ones. Hence sharing dias
or approaching leaders is in no way a transgression, it falls perfectly
under rights of citizens. No established leader or representative would ever
think this way.

Here, a wrong has been committed by (a) humiliating an individual who
protests against a non-free incursion inside a Free Software conference and
disseminates non-free ideology and (b) protecting the non-free intruder to
display their non-free trickery without objections. Novell has succeeded in
driving the wedge, inflicting a kind of perfect damage to a contributors'
community and getting away scot-free.

CK Raju
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