March 8, 2003 12:48 | Technology

Free software & copyright

I attended the first presentation at SxSW. It was by Richard Stallman: the founder of the GNU (free) software, erm, movement. I left after about 45 minutes because I grew tired of his longwinded and really quite silly (with no chance to retort, or expand) examples and simpleminded illustrations. They say he's a genius; I guess he felt he needed to dumb it down for the audience. Dumbed it a tad too much, I'd say.

No doubt what he was talking about is "right on", but when the room burst into applause at his admonition that "these arrogant music publishing and software companies must be brought down", I got a chill down my spine. While I agree, and I understand that, well, the troops must be mobilised, I still dislike the me-too-slash-mob-mentality that seemingly must accompany such things. Rabble-rousing is no replacement for education.

But then, all movements know this: 10 educated revolutionaries are more dangerous than a self-righteous mob. At a rally of thousands, you reach maybe ten who take up the task and hold their own rallies. That's how it works. Online, it seems to work even more effectively.