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

Allison Randal allison at lohutok.net
Fri Jul 1 22:49:07 UTC 2011

They weren't looking for legal advice, more along the lines of the kind
of practical advice you'd want in working with a new programming
language or tool, a place to congregate with others adopting the
agreements, and form a community around usage.

Certainly lawyers have to be careful, but most FLOSS lawyers I know are.
It would be unfortunate if the lawyers in the drafting group entirely
avoided participating with the Harmony adopters.


On 07/01/2011 02:59 PM, Eben Moglen wrote:
> 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.
> Eben
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