[OSGeo-Discuss] Re: Liability protection project - call for participants

Allan Doyle adoyle at eogeo.org
Tue May 15 08:42:54 PDT 2007

Thanks for bringing this to our attention, it's a topic that has  
renewed relevance.

 From the sound of it, OSGeo itself has too many eggs in its basket  
to risk having them broken by providing a shield. But that ought not  
stop geo-foss developers from either joining up with Bruce's idea or  
from setting up a geo-clone of that idea.

Ideally, the legal issues would only have to be worked out once, and  
everyone who wanted could join the "shield". There's nothing  
inherently different about geo in this case, is there?


On May 14, 2007, at 23:32, Frank Warmerdam wrote:

> Folks,
> Bruce Perens is a luminary in the open source world, and known as a
> founder of the Debian project, and author of the Free Software
> Definition - a foundational document for the concept of OSI approved
> open source licenses.
> Bruce Perens wrote:
> > A long time ago we planned for SPI to protect Debian developers from
> > liability connected with their development of Free Software. That  
> never
> > came to fruition. With the sword-rattling going on by various patent
> > holders, it's  a goal even more worth carrying out today.
> >
> > Some of us have homes, and other property that we would rather  
> not place
> > at risk of any lawsuit connected with our Free Software  
> activities. The
> > way to do that is to act as a volunteer on the behalf of a non- 
> profit
> > corporation, with the corporation assuming your liability. It is
> > possible to insure you against those risks, but it's much more  
> expensive
> > - potentially 1.5 to 2.5 percent of your net worth per year per  
> member.
> > It's better to put the risk in the lap of an entity that doesn't own
> > anything. We can potentially do it at zero cost to the member  
> that way.
> >
> > There is a downside. If you work on behalf of such an entity, you  
> would
> > have to agree to act at their direction, which means acting  
> responsbily
> > on their behalf, by not doing stupid stuff that obviously  
> increases the
> > corporation's risk of being sued. This doesn't really have to do  
> with
> > practical software, but with what some consider freedom-of-speech  
> issues
> > like obscentity or hate speech. For that reason, this would be  
> strictly
> > opt-in. It would not be directly associated with SPI or Debian,  
> because
> > we could never get all of the DDs to agree about this, and  
> because SPI
> > owns property that we do not want to expose to liability.  
> Copyrights of
> > software produced would be assigned to a non-profit like FSF or SPI*
> >
> > I am asking for current free software authors in the United  
> States who
> > would be interested in being protected from liability, and would  
> join me
> > in a request to the Software Freedom Law Center to assist us by  
> creating
> > such an entity. If you would like to do that, please reply to me at
> > bruce at perens.com . Further discussion will be carried out separately
> > from SPI and Debian lists.
> >
> >    Thanks
> >
> >    Bruce
> >
> > * There should also be limits on how much software a single non- 
> profit
> > has in its "risk pool", this is a good question for SFLC.
> At the time it was founded, OSGeo also had a goal to provide legal
> resources, and perhaps assume legal liability for developers of OSGeo
> project.  This is not a role that OSGeo has worked to address since
> founding, and it is unclear how much liability it would be willing to
> assume.
> I've asked Bruce for more information on his efforts, either with an
> eye towards OSGeo fulfilling this role of legal liability shield for
> developers, or possibly with the idea of addressing this via some
> separate entity such as the one he envisages establishing.
> I'm interested in others thoughts on the importance of the role of
> "legal liability shield".  Such thoughts would be well expressed
> here on OSGeo discuss.
> Bruce is also interested in other open source software developers
> expressing interest in his effort to help justify forming a  
> corporation.
> You can contact him as noted above.
> Best regards,
> -- 
> --------------------------------------- 
> +--------------------------------------
> I set the clouds in motion - turn up   | Frank Warmerdam,  
> warmerdam at pobox.com
> light and sound - activate the windows | http://pobox.com/~warmerdam
> and watch the world go round - Rush    | President OSGeo, http:// 
> osgeo.org
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Allan Doyle
adoyle at eogeo.org

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