Liability protection project - call for participants

Bruce Perens bruce at
Mon May 14 22:51:40 UTC 2007

A long time ago we planned for SPI to protect Debian developers from 
liability connected with their development of Free Software. That never 
came to fruition. With the sword-rattling going on by various patent 
holders, it's  a goal even more worth carrying out today.

Some of us have homes, and other property that we would rather not place 
at risk of any lawsuit connected with our Free Software activities. The 
way to do that is to act as a volunteer on the behalf of a non-profit 
corporation, with the corporation assuming your liability. It is 
possible to insure you against those risks, but it's much more expensive 
- potentially 1.5 to 2.5 percent of your net worth per year per member. 
It's better to put the risk in the lap of an entity that doesn't own 
anything. We can potentially do it at zero cost to the member that way.

There is a downside. If you work on behalf of such an entity, you would 
have to agree to act at their direction, which means acting responsbily 
on their behalf, by not doing stupid stuff that obviously increases the 
corporation's risk of being sued. This doesn't really have to do with 
practical software, but with what some consider freedom-of-speech issues 
like obscentity or hate speech. For that reason, this would be strictly 
opt-in. It would not be directly associated with SPI or Debian, because 
we could never get all of the DDs to agree about this, and because SPI 
owns property that we do not want to expose to liability. Copyrights of 
software produced would be assigned to a non-profit like FSF or SPI*

I am asking for current free software authors in the United States who 
would be interested in being protected from liability, and would join me 
in a request to the Software Freedom Law Center to assist us by creating 
such an entity. If you would like to do that, please reply to me at 
bruce at . Further discussion will be carried out separately 
from SPI and Debian lists.



* There should also be limits on how much software a single non-profit 
has in its "risk pool", this is a good question for SFLC.

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