FSF Seminar: Case Study and Legal Ethics
Compliance Case Studies and Legal Ethics in Free Software Licensing
Law School, Columbia University
New York, NY
January 21, 2004 (9:00 am - 6:00 pm)
This one-day course presents the details of five different GPL
compliance cases handled by FSF's GPL Compliance Laboratory. Each case
offers unique insights into problems that can arise when the terms of
GPL are not properly followed, and how diplomatic negotiation between
the violator and the copyright holder can yield positive results for
This course also includes a unit on the ethical considerations for
attorneys who want to represent clients that make use of or sell Free
Prerequisites: Attendees should
have successfully completed the course, a Detailed Study and
Analysis of GPL and LGPL, as the material from that course forms
the building blocks for this material, or have attended a
previous Free Software Licensing and the GNU GPL Seminar.
course is of most interest to lawyers who have clients or employers
that deal with Free Software on a regular basis. However, technical
managers and executives whose businesses use or distribute Free
Software will also find the course very helpful.
The course will include the topics listed below, along with ample
time for questions and discussions.
Moglen will be the lunchtime speaker. Professor Moglen is
Professor of Law and Legal History at Columbia Law School and one of
the nation's foremost scholars on copyright, patents and the proposed
“Broadcast Flag”. He is also a member of FSF's Board of
Directors and the foundation's General Counsel. Professor Moglen has
also written extensively on the SCO vs IBM lawsuit.
GPL Compliance Case Studies:
* Overview of FSF's GPL Compliance
We present a brief
introduction to the work that FSF does to enforce the GPL and defend the
freedoms granted by Free Software.
* GPL Violation Case Study A
In this case study, we consider one of
the most complex and longest-running violations that FSF has handled.
Company A distributed a derivative work of the GNU Complier Collection
(GCC) without complete corresponding source, and refused to distribute
any source at all to anyone who was not their direct customer. We
follow the slow movement toward compliance and explain how FSF deals
with sometimes belligerent violators.
* GPL Violation Case Study B
In this case study, we consider a
contrasting violation to Case A. Company B, who sold a complete
GNU/Linux distribution, had worked hard to be in compliance, but we
had nevertheless found an infraction in their compliance efforts. We
explain how smoothly violations of this type can be resolved and the
process that an otherwise friendly violator can expect.
* GPL Violation Case Study C
In this case study, we present a
violation where an entire embedded GNU/Linux distribution was included
in a consumer electronic device. We consider the problems faced
regarding kernel modules for device drivers for government-regulated
hardware, and cases where both an upstream provider and a downstream
distributor are in violation on separate matters.
* GPL Violation Case Study D
In this case study, we consider how to
handle the inevitable violations that can occur from a company that is
generally committed to doing Free Software as a regular part of its
business, but — due to experimentation with new cutting edge
business models, or because of mere oversights — has occasional
GPL violations or near-violations.
* Good Practices for GPL Compliance
After discussing the details of the
various archetypes of GPL compliance efforts undertaken by FSF, we
generalize what we have learned to advise on good practices to build a
product from start to finish in compliance with GPL, and how to build
internal policies to assure that your client or company is never faced
with a violation report.
Ethical Considerations for the Attorney Practicing Free
This portion of the course will focus on
ethical issues that may arise for attorneys counseling clients with
respect to free software issues. Many of these topics have more
general application, but specific discussion of the ways in which
these issues may arise for free software clients will be
* Part I: Representing Free Software
An attorney's ethical duties run to not
just their clients, but to potential clients and the general public as
well. Pro bono representation of free software clients not only
conforms with the principles set forth by most Bar Associations, but
also provides many other benefits to an attorney. Once a client is
retained, the duty of loyalty attaches and conflicts, be they direct,
indirect, or political, should be identified and handled.
* Part II: Practicing Free Software
issues arise in the context of counseling a client who is a free
software licensor as opposed to one who is a free software licensee.
Further still, representing a client who is both licensor and licensee
presents a combination of all of these issues. Compliance
investigation and enforcement strategies must be implemented in
accordance with both the duty of loyalty and the duty of honesty.
Likewise, performing exposure abatement while also defending against
charges of infringement may pose problems within the attorney-client
relationship. The ethical considerations relevant to each of these
situations will be presented and discussed.
* Part III: More General Ethical
Considerations Relevant to Free Software
Free software counseling is but one
specialty within the realm of intellectual property counseling in
general. A review of various topics of more general application, but
with special relevance to free software counseling, will be given
along with a discussion of the reasons why and ways in which such
issues arise when representing free software clients. Patent
prosecution and governing rules considerations are two such topics.
Pricing (Book by December 24, 2003 for early registration
$495 for registrations on or before
December 24, 2003 and $595 after December 24
Policy: Applicants with annual incomes of up to $15,000 are
entitled to a 75% discount. People with incomes between $15,000 and
$30,000 receive a 50% discount. Any member of the judiciary,
academics or attorneys from non-profit organizations receive a 10%
discount. If you fall within one of these categories, please contact
John at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or
Ravi at <email@example.com> or by
phone at 617.620.9640.
Attorneys who successfully complete the day long course will be
entitled to a total of 7.5 New York Transitional CLE credits, 3 in the
area of Professional Practice and 4.5 toward the Ethics and
Companies that have
signed up as Corporate Patrons of FSF receive two complimentary seats
per year at FSF seminars and reduced rates for additional
contact <firstname.lastname@example.org> for
more details. You can find out more about the Corporate Patron
The seminar will be
held at Columbia Law School in New York. Directions will be sent
following registration. For more information, please contact Ravi
Khanna, FSF's Director of Communication
at <email@example.com> or by