Throughout there was one proponent of the concept that Free Software is a new means of production, from Revolutions Numeric http://www.revolutions-numeriques.net , part of the French Communist Party.
The morning was split into two parts. The first with the techies presenting, turned into an exposition of Open Source, how it works, and some of the present issues. The second was to broaden the issue toward patents, and scientific research.
The presentations and the discussion from the floor in the first session revolved around how can it work, where profit comes from, education of the public and the spending of public funds. The moral importance of open access was emphasised by several speakers. Generally, it seemed that the room agreed, public money spent on corporate software was money lost from the common good; investing and supporting open source development was adding knowledge to the community. Much was made that profits can be made from open source, not challenging the current paradigm. Here it was only Jerome Relinger, from Revolutions Numerique, who suggested that as a different method of production it could make challenges.
The second part of the session developed the idea of using the open source model for all information, a strong example was made to start the session using school text books. Text books are getting expensive, investment is made in private printing houses, who retain copyright and restrict the use of the information. Yet more and more often, open non-copyrighted materials written by teachers are being used. The idea was also developed by the scientists on the panel for their research. Presently money is spent to research and patent information, this lets corporations present restrictions on what scientists can develop from the data.
Elsewhere, the issue of the ownership of ideas, and information, was discussed on the fringes, in preparation for the UN World Summit on Information Society. The summit will continue, and no doubt extend, the private control of information - probably under some disguise. This will allow further restrictions on what people can do with others ideas. WSIS :: We Seize are organising counter events, both in Geneva at the time of the summit, and “virtually” on the Internet. http://www.geneva03.org/