[Harmony-Drafting] Harmony user's list and professional responsibility

Eben Moglen moglen at softwarefreedom.org
Fri Jul 1 13:59:55 UTC 2011

Sensible lawyers will not give what is necessarily unprivileged advice
on such a list.  Pertinent questions we are professionally responsible
for asking projects in order to assist them in devising their project
contribution arrangements also cannot responsibly be asked, or
answered, in a public context.  

Each message must remind the reader that the information contained
there, even if accurate concerning legal positions expressed by the
writer, may be incorrect or even harmful to act upon in the reader's
jurisdiction.  Every lawyer writing to such a list would have to add
additional material indicating the appropriate geographic reach of her
or his advice, which is one more reason why no sensible counsel will
publish anything there.

For these reasons, Gresham's law will function in such a setting, and
bad advice--or at least unlicensed and in a formal sense irresponsible
advice--will drive out good advice.  Reference to the infinitesimal
signal to noise ratio on certain well-known legal affairs mailing
lists in our community bolsters the prediction.

This proposal will present the operator of such a list with some
liability issues, too.  Disclaimers should be automatically appended
to each message that could inappropriately be construed as legal
advice, or could represent a legal position taken by the organization
sponsoring the list, or the one whose agent or employee is the source
of any particular message.  Such disclaimers should instruct people
considering relying on the advice contained in any message to consult
their own counsel.  Anyone moderating or editing in such a context
should have malpractice coverage.

Practicing public-facing law for free software authors is a complex
activity.  This proposal I would not characterize as prudent.


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