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'A lawyer who is also idealist - how refreshing'

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Interviews

The legal guardian of the free software movement explains why, after 12 years, the time is right to release version 3 of its constitution for public comment

At least 10% more programming effort is being poured into software released under the General Public Licence (GPL) - the legal underpinning of three-quarters of all free software such as the Linux operating system - than the combined output of all the programmers in Microsoft.

So says Eben Moglen, who has been analysing the coding hours per week people have done. And he should know: this hacker lawyer has for the past 12 years been official guardian of the GPL, and is overseeing the important process of crafting version 3 of what amounts to a constitution for the world of free software.

Moglen has had an unusual career. At 16, he helped write the first networked email system. He later worked on designing programming languages at IBM, but left the company in 1984, increasingly disillusioned after an epiphanic encounter with the Apple Lisa - a precursor of the Macintosh - and by the shift to what he calls "the cave-man interface: you point and you grunt". He did a history degree and then a law degree, and ended up teaching and writing about the roots of intellectual property law.

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