Worst Case Scenarios - SPI and Lawsuits

Brian Ristuccia brian at ristuccia.com
Fri Jan 11 17:36:43 UTC 2002

On Fri, Jan 11, 2002 at 09:57:00AM -0600, Rourk, Chris wrote:
> I would also recommend avoiding doing stuff that will get you sued.  SPI
> and Debian have more important things to do than be a test case for a
> dispute over intellectual property rights.  

Surely this is a prudent policy. But we can't take it too far. Today we're
omitting sofware DVD players because end users might use them to infringe
copyright or modify them into "circumvention devices." Will we be dropping
useful things like p2p clients, other compressed audio/video players, GNU
fileutils, and GDB tomorrow?

I don't want to see us being so paranoid about getting sued that we don't do
our job of providing a complete system of quality Free Software that's
usable for both software engineering and day-to-day personal computing

> I'd like to see Linux put a
> serious hurt on Microsoft, among other things.  If you are aware of
> anything that is going to cause a large company heartburn, let me know so
> we can decide whether it might result in the kind of lawsuit that SPI
> wants to avoid.

There's hundreds of such packages in Debian. 

Which is why I'm concerned about preemptive action to protect the continued
operation of Debian should SPI get sued. I'm not advocating this as a means
to allow Debian to recklessly disregard the law, but rather as a means to
add a margin of safety if and when we ever decide to stand our ground on a
particular issue.

I know there's plenty of people (myself included) who would donate a machine
or two if all of Debian's hardware got sold at a SPI bankrupcy auction. But
problems like losing a domain name are a lot more difficult to solve.
Immagine the mess that would result if a hostile third party suddenly became
copyright proprietor for parts of Debian and started sending DMCA notices to
mirror sites and so on...

Brian Ristuccia
brian at ristuccia.com
bristucc at cs.uml.edu

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