As has become customary now, I took a short trip on the subway to check in on the Fordham Annual Conference on International Intellectual Property Law and Policy this year.
The conference always posts an extensive line-up of the biggest and brightest stars in IP law. There are folks from the copyright office, governments around the world, and all of the big media companies. While the conferences usually offers a token spot or two to more critical IP folks like Jamie Love or Fred von Lohnmann, it is basically a high-protectionist love-fest and strategizing session. It’s interesting to go to take the pulse of the high protectionist world and to get a preview of upcoming policy and legal pushes around IP enforcement, DRM, litigation, legislation, and more.
It’s also always interesting to see the way that free and open source software is treated in the conference. It is particularly interesting in light of that famous quote attributed to Gandhi that Eben Moglen has used in reference to the free software movement: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win.
When I went to Fordham several years ago, free software was completely ignored. In previous years, it has been raised briefly but only to be dismissed and laughed off. They’re still telling jokes but the jokes are becoming increasingly vicious (although not increasingly grounded in fact).
As an example of our progress and of the way that free software is treated by some of the most famous and influential minds in IP, here is a very short recording of Hugh C. Hansen — professor of IP at Fordham, director of the conference and an famous and highly respected name in IP — speaking about free and open source software and its developers:
On the other hand, the conference web site appears to be served by Apache running on Fedora so apparently he has a little good sense.