[Chicago] to lawer or not Was: something unrelated

Carl Karsten carl at personnelware.com
Tue Jan 6 02:59:43 CET 2009

Ian Bicking wrote:
> Carl Karsten wrote:
>> Ian Bicking wrote:
>>> Martin Maney wrote:
>>>> On Sun, Jan 04, 2009 at 07:25:24PM -0600, Ian Bicking wrote:
>>>>> Lawyers are bullshit.
>>>> Not half as bullshit as asking a bunch of non-lawyers for legal advice,
>>>> which I was trying to avoid saying in so many words.  <wink>
>>>>> The ABSOLUTE WORST CASE is that the developers of Fabric will be
>>>>> annoyed that you are using their code in a closed source system, and
>>>>> they'll ask you to open your code or stop using Fabric.  If you are a
>>>> Are you the copyright owner of Fabric?  I truly have no idea.  If you
>>>> aren't, this is, yes, in line with the usual outcome, but it's also
>>>> just so much hot air if you cannot speak for them.
>>> It's in line with all past disputes about GPL violations.  I don't 
>>> know of any exceptions, I pay attention to such cases, and there 
>>> really aren't that many disputes total around the GPL.  Given 
>>> consistency among *all* past experiences, it's reasonable to make 
>>> predictions about future risks.
>>> Also, I'm far more capable of predicting how a developer will respond 
>>> than most lawyers.  Perhaps because lawyers give proper lawyerly 
>>> advice, which means they have to cover their butts, and I'm giving 
>>> free, without warrantee, disinterested (well, somewhat disinterested) 
>>> advice based on reasonable predictions of risk.
>> I am pretty sure you are breaking the law.  If you doubt me, I will 
>> find some support for this.
> Lawyers tell all kinds of stories.  I don't believe them.  Has someone 
> at some time gotten in trouble for giving legal advice?  Probably.  If I 
> was calling myself a lawyer would that be illegal?  Probably so too, 
> though from what I can tell you really have to be over the top before 
> something actually happens.
> Also, I'm willing to assume the risk that Garrett will sue me.  I think 
> he's the only one here who could.
> Is it criminal to give legal advice? 


"He was arrested Tuesday on four counts of grand theft, one count of theft from 
an elder and one count of unauthorized practice of law." 

> That seems unlikely.  You can sue 
> anyone for anything.  Can I get sued for giving legal advice?  Sure, I 
> can get sued for anything.
>> This does not mean I don't want to hear your opinion.  It helps me 
>> decide how much I want to worry about these things.   I am using some 
>> gpl code as part of a  BSDed project.  so far it is just a dependency, 
>> but the upcoming python bindings haven't been done yet, and I may have 
>> to patch/fork the code, which probably is not quite right, and I will 
>> send a "do you care?" to the author, but I would think when he sees 
>> what I am doing there won't be any problem.
>> Reportlab won't use gpl code in it's code base, so I sent an email to 
>> the author of the code asking if they would release it under whatever 
>> reportlab folks wanted.  Some people suggest they are being over 
>> cautious.
> If they have an intent to use the code in a proprietary manner, then 
> sure they should care.  I think Reportlab actually does have that 
> intention.  But getting stressed out about the GPL when considering 
> sysadminish tasks, and at the point when you are just analyzing 
> something, isn't worth it IMHO.  I'm worried some people have a 
> knee-jerk reaction about the GPL that is based on unrealistic claims of 
> its "viral" nature.

Yeah, I have wondered about that - I hear "GPL infected" now and then.

>>>> I may have read too much into the OP's query - whether justified or
>>>> not, I thought there might be commercial considerations involved
>>>> (perhaps since he said he'd read the GPL, which so few bother to do).
>>>> But I'm saddened to see you suggesting, apparently, that he should just
>>>> do what he wants to and not worry about violating a license since it
>>>> won't cost him much.  BTW, if he's invested a good deal of time and
>>>> effort in setting things up using Fabric and has some compelling reason
>>>> not to choose the "GPL everything" solution, then that cost could turn
>>>> out not to be so small after all...
>>> You *never* have to GPL everything in response to the GPL.  If you 
>>> are distributing encumbered code to other people, you may have to 
>>> disencumber it.  I suppose it's possible that the people receiving 
>>> the code might actually force you to do so -- I haven't really heard 
>>> of this, but that party would be more justified in asserting their 
>>> rights than the Fabric license holders.  That party would probably be 
>>> your paying customers, and so if you are giving them royalty-free 
>>> rights to your code it wouldn't be a big deal anyway.
>>>>> then you might also burn some social capital.  That's all you risk, 
>>>>> and  if you ask the Fabric people up front how they interpret the 
>>>>> GPL then  you don't even risk that.  Any other prediction is simply 
>>>>> false.
>>>> That's a good point - a clear statement of how the copyright holders
>>>> interpret the specific application would be a fine idea.  A good lawyer
>>>> might have suggested this.
>>> I've gotten weird pushback from lawyers that statements of my intent 
>>> aren't meaningful compared the license itself (despite the LGPL and 
>>> GPL often being unclear anyway).  I read this as bullshit, and it's 
>>> made me wary of lawyers as good predictors of legal issues.  (If you 
>>> ask me about my licensing, and I say I'm not going to sue you, what 
>>> more do you need?)
>> If I cared enough to ask, I would care enough to get it in writing. 
>> and it would be a waste of time if the writing wasn't something I felt 
>> was properly written, which I am not qualified to gauge, so I would 
>> hire someone who was.
> Email is writing, this was all email.  It's a statement.  Statements 
> matter, you can use them in court, you don't have to have them notarized 
> first.  It's not plausible that I'm going to deny writing the email, and 
> its language was unambiguous.

If "I'm not going to sue you" would hold up in court, then I could walk all over 
you and there wouldn't be a thing you could do about it.  other than say "that's 
not what I meant" which is very valid, and trying to extract out what you meant 
out of this thread would be more work that just doing it right the fist time.

 > But the overhead of involving a lawyer
> kills progress regardless of how easily the issues can be resolved.

The system does have it's pitfalls, but it's better than seeing if you float.

>>>>> Lawyers probably won't tell you this, which is why you shouldn't 
>>>>> ask a  lawyer.
>>>> Well, Sturgeon's Law, sure.  I guess it can be hard to find a *good*
>>>> lawyer.  :-/
>>> Which is why I think "ask a lawyer" is mostly stop energy, not really 
>>> constructive.  It's just not going to happen, or if it does then the 
>>> lawyer will just add more stop energy.  The law is *our* law, it 
>>> doesn't belong to lawyers, and people shouldn't have to constantly 
>>> defer to professionals.
>> Um... I own my pipes and the tree, but when the two conspire against 
>> me I call a professional.   Joe plumber owns a computer.  If Joe wants 
>> a program written, shouldn't he defer to a professional?
> Maybe.  But if he doesn't, more power to him.  I certainly wouldn't stop 
> him.  

What if your doctor said "this machine that goes bing to keep you alive... I had 
my son do the programming because the professional wanted the going rate.  I 
think it will work, he's a great video game player."

 > I am also entirely opposed to the idea of programming being a
> certified profession like engineering.

I am with you on this.  mainly because the field is evolving so fast the tests 
cant even come close to keeping up with what's current.  I learned about trees 
and encryption, and what I know now is: use someone else's tree and encryption 

I wouldn't mind a syntax certification.  at least for python, because I think 
it's reasonable.  If I was going to hire a python programmer, I would like to 
know that they know the notation, and I don't really feel like coming up and 
administrating the test.

Carl K

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