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SubjectRe: Linux GPL and binary module exception clause?
Date
On Thursday 11 December 2003 16:42, Andre Hedrick wrote:
> Rob,
>
> > The fact you personally were off in a corner talking about little green
> > men from mars is remarkably irrelevant to what I wrote to Hua Zhong (who
> > I'm fairly certain is not you. His english is better.)
>
> Gee, I love the insults. I seriously doubt you have ever paid a lawyer
> to even have the knowledge to allow you to pump out the bovine piles you
> are spraying in the air.

I've noticed that you love insults, yes. I believe you've finally found a
statement that we can both agree on.

> Correct, I am not a lawyer, and you admit you are not one.

Two. Wow. Progress.

> I have paid lawyers for advice and some damn good ones.
>
> Can you say the same?

I have paid lawyers for advice. I have been paid BY lawyers. I have hung out
socially with lawyers. I have studied law for years, although not with the
aim of acquiring credentials.

Here's a week-long series on intellectual property I wrote for The Motley Fool
a few years ago. It was reviewed by TMF's legal department, and we went back
and forth on a couple minor things before it got published.

http://www.fool.com/portfolios/rulemaker/2000/rulemaker000501.htm
http://www.fool.com/portfolios/rulemaker/2000/rulemaker000502.htm
http://www.fool.com/portfolios/rulemaker/2000/rulemaker000503.htm
http://www.fool.com/portfolios/rulemaker/2000/rulemaker000504.htm
http://www.fool.com/portfolios/rulemaker/2000/rulemaker000505.htm

I've since spotted a couple more minor points that crept past the lawyers who
reviewed it. I have learned since then. I learned doing it: I still have
some of the literature I picked up visiting the PTO in washington DC doing
research for that series. And I learned a lot years before doing it. That's
just one example that's still online.

I have been paid to explain the standard community interpretation of the GPL
by at least three different companies' lawyers now. (I started studying the
GPL and LGPL specifically in 1996, which is really what got me into this
whole hobby...)

A few years ago I had some fairly extensive email discussions with Richard
Stallman about copyright and the GPL (even driving to boston to interview him
in person once). I've had considerably more extensive discussions with Eric
Raymond (whose wife is a lawyer, and who as president of OSI has been asked
to review licenses by companies like Apple and IBM...)

Heck, Eric and Cathy are _friends_ of mine. Try "dig www.landley.net" and
"dig www.thyrsus.com": I'm still borrowing space on the machine in Eric's
basement because I've been too lazy to arrange a hosting box here in Texas.
(It's on my to-do list...) I'm mentioned in the introduction of Eric's new
book because I went to Pennsylvania and crashed on his couch for a month to
edit the thing. (http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/taoup/html/pr01s06.html
paragraph 2. The "walkthrough" in 0.2 and 0.3 of the revision history was
_ME_.)

I'm the one who arranged to have a panel at Penguicon on intellectual property
issues with a real lawyer (Cathy) explaining what the various open source
licenses mean to attendees (See
http://penguicon.sourceforge.net/programming.shtml sunday, 10 am, north
belle). This year's Penguicon will probably have another one, although I'm
much less involved...

And what I've learned from ALL of that (and far more that's not worth listing
here) is that there's a reason it's called a legal OPINION, and what you
generally say isn't "you're wrong" but "I disagree, and here's why". Judges
give rulings, not lawyers. (And judges' rulings get overturned, don't apply
to a given case, vary by jurisdiction, etc...)

Lawyers no more universally agree on interpretations of the law then techies
agree on kernel optimizations. And open source licensing (as a subset of
intellectual property) is every bit as much a specialty area of the law as
virtual memory page replacement strategies (a subset of kernel development)
is a specialty area of programming. (Most lawyers don't really know much
about it at all, they just know where to look it up. Hence a couple lawyers
asking me what the community thinks the GPL means. Obviously they don't take
my opinion as gospel: they go and read the thing themselves, and the law, and
as much relevant case law as they can find (which ain't much), and then we
have a back and forth...)

I don't know much about estate planning, tax law, insurance law, or civil
administrative procedure. I keep forgetting what latin terms like "res
judicata" mean (god bless Google), and I had to look up "barratry" at the
start of the SCO thing. But yes, I consider myself competently informed
about my little niche.

These days, with resources like http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/ out
there, it's not nearly as hard to be up to speed on this as it used to be.
(You used to have to go to the LIBRARY. And get out BOOKS. And send money
to Nolo Press every time they got sued. Uphill. Both ways.)

> Can you say the same?

Why would I want to?

I've seen experts in this area. Eben Moglen
(http://emoglen.law.columbia.edu/) and Lawrence Lessig
(http://www.lessig.org/blog/) come to mind.

I am not an expert here. I am an educated layman. I read things like "Legal
battles that shaped the computer industry" (by Lawrence D. Graham,
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1567201784/026-4037783-2541254 ) for
fun. Yes, I am weird.

You obviously aren't even an educated layman if you think that simply having
spoken to a lawyer means that legalness somehow rubbed off on you and gave
you an aura of absolute truth. Every time I talk to a lawyer, the concept of
absolute truth in law gets farther and farther away...

Feel free to take that as a suggestion.

Rob

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