[linux-elitists] Free Lawyers

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Sun Jul 4 15:38:44 PDT 2004

on Sat, Jul 03, 2004 at 06:47:52PM -0400, Mister Bad (mr.bad@pigdog.org) wrote:
> Two things: first, has anyone tried to create a referral system for
> lawyers familiar/comfortable with Free Software licensing issues? Like,
> say, if I had a problem with someone violating the license on a GPL'd
> package I worked on, how would I find a lawyer who would know how to
> deal with it?

Regards the referral list:  not that I'm aware, though my short list
would be Eben Moglen, Lawrence Lessig, Larry Rosen, and Mitchel Baker
(Mozilla project).  If they couldn't take your case directly, I suspect
they could point you to someone they would trust, and all have extensive
contacts crossing both the legal and Free Software communities, as well
as a strong interest in the area.

I'd definitely go to both the FSF and OpenSource Initiative's homepages
and poke around.

I've had the pleasure of meeting some of the internal counsel from a
number of companies looking at free software, and there's a few outfits
with a pretty good grasp on things, notably IBM, Sun, Apple, Intel,
Novell.  I've also seen some stinkers, mostly in private practice
looking to cash in on the dot-com craze, but not really grokking the
underlying principles.

If it concerns the GPL, Moglen or the FSF would be a good first contact.
They wrote the stuff, understand it well, and (I'm not speaking for
them) _might_ be able to put you in touch with someone who's at least
versed in the issues.

There are a number of lawyers who are regular participants in
discussions on the OSI license-discuss list (including Rosen and a few
others).  Other places to look for clueful discussion are the
CNI-Copyright list, and the Usenet group misc.int-property.

You can search for lawyers in general at Findlaw:
http://www.findlaw.com/.  This is among the better legal resources
online.  There's some indication of specialty there.

There are a few outfits with licensing information online, among the
better of which is Stromian Technologies at http://www.stromian.com/
Don Rosenberg, principle, is IIRC _not_ an attorney, but _is_ highly
versed in Free Software / Open Source licensing, has written a pretty
good book on the subject, and has been both clueful and receptive to
suggestions / corrections in email and personal discussions.

> Second: are there any outreach/instruction/workshop programs for
> attorneys? Speakers who go to local bar association meetings (or
> whatever) and give discussions about Free Software licenses?

This is a frequently iterated topic.  I believe the FSF has actually run
several such workshops.  I know OSI has considered it though I'm not
sure if they've got it off the ground.  Stromian offers consulting
seminars on the topic, more aimed at business executives AFAICT.  And
I've presented on the topic at the O'Reilly Open Source and Intel
Developers conferences, as well as for a former dot-com.



Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    Homer sometimes nods.
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