Titans of the Blogosphere Rumble (in a sort of geeky and friendly way)

Dave Winer and Dan Gillmor recently butted heads over Bill Gates' infamous answer to whether copyright laws should be reformed:

"No, I'd say that of the world's economies, there's more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist," - Bill Gates, in an interview with news.com

Dan Gillmor was quick to pounce on Gates' attempt to create a red-scare:

The purity of this lie is remarkable. Even the most ardent of the free-software folks are not trying to remove the incentive to be creative. They believe in a different kind of incentive, just not the mercenary one that motivates Bill Gates.The larger truth -- a principle for which Gates so frequently demonstrates such contempt -- is that the vast, vast majority of people who find fault with today's system still want to reward creators for their work, financially and otherwise. But we also want a system that balances the rights of creators with the rights and needs of the larger society.Gates and his allies in the entertainment cartel want absolute control. For them, fair use and other societal benefits are what the intellectual property holders deem them to be. (And when it comes to patents, Gates and his company are becoming some of the worst bullies on the block, abusing a system that increasingly has little to do with actual innovation.)

Gillmor, who is always full of suprises, proceeds to end his attack on Gates with this rhetorical jewel:

What's more, Bill Gates knows that markets fail. That why he's putting so much money into his philanthropy to help improve public health, especially in the developing world where markets have not worked. I greatly admire his commitment in that area.


However, Dave Winer -- who is among the most powerful of all bloggers -- followed up on Dan's editorial with some questions of his own:

As usual, I'm suspect of criticism of Gates. Would Dan criticize Kapor, Omidyar or O'Reilly, the three capitalists who sign his paycheck? My purpose here is to frame some questions for the Credibility conference, below. If we're going to examine the integrity of bloggers, let's take a look at the pros too. (Assuming Dan is still a pro.)

Gillmor, unphased, replied directly to Dave Winer's questions:

Dave also asks if I'd criticize the people with whom I now have business relationships. If I felt sufficiently strongly about something, I would -- though at least on the question at issue here we share pretty much congruent views (Mitch Kapor, the Omidyar Network and Tim O'Reilly all support the goals of Creative Commmons, for example). But, as was the case when I wrote about Knight-Ridder while employed by that company, anything I say about these folks or enterprises would need to be taken by a reader with a grain of salt, because of the business relationships. This is always true when a journalist covers a person or organization with which he or his employer has such a relationship, and it always will be.

My conclusion? Winer didn't even come close to weakening Gillmor's underlying argument that Gates was being dishonest. And in fact, Winer weakened his own argument by attacking Dan's business relationship with Kapor, Omidyar, and O'Reilly (thereby virtually ignoring Gillmor's main argument). The assertion that Dan criticised gates because of his relationship with those three men is ludicrous. Gillmor even lisensed his latest book under a creative commons non-commercial-attribution-share-alike licsense (which means you can read it online, make changes to it, and publish it for free; provided you don't try to sell it). Gillmor "walks the talk". And I suspect Winer's challenge was more Socratic than serious; he mentions that he was framing some questions for Harvard's conference on Blogging, Journalism & Credibility. So I say bravo to both Gillmor, and Winer. Together they've given a great lesson on integrity, credibility, and respect in the blogosphere.