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Subject: Re: Legal issues, names, privacy, and pseudonyms
From: Fred Maxwell (rockbox_at_anti-spam.org)
Date: 2004-06-08


Joseph,

That's an interesting point. In the U.S., what it really boils down to
is whether one wants to be considered a "common carrier" or whether one
wishes to show that they exercised due diligence and editorial control.

If you put up a web page which contains plagiarized copyrighted
material, your ISP is not at legal risk. They are a "common carrier"
and are note responsible for what is done by their users. Where one
gets in grave legal trouble is when they exercise editorial control and
then use less than due diligence. That's what the opposing attorney
would try to prove:

"So you got the person's purported name. Did you get their signature?
Did you get a notarized document identifying the person? Did you
require a photo ID? Did you get their mailing address? Did you have
them sign a contract? So you recognized that it was your responsibility
to prevent copyrighted code from being included into your project, but
the only thing you did to prevent that was demand that someone provide a
name that sounded somewhat real?"

Let's just hope that nothing of that kind ever comes to pass.

Regards,
   Fred Maxwell

Joseph Jones wrote:

> Interestingly, this has been taken to another degree by the developers
> of Xebian (Debian on the XBox), who wont allow access to their
> executable signing app (used so that only MS executables and XBox Linux
> authorised executables can be run with their bootloader-type-thing)
> without an existing member of the team meeting the new member. Some
> projects have been killed off because of this.
>
> Joe
>
> Fred Maxwell wrote:
>
>> Björn Stenberg wrote:
>>
>>> The listed author of the Othelo plugin, who calls himself
>>
>>
>> > Bluechip", refuses to tell us who he is. This has left us
>> > legally vulnerable, since we do not know who wrote of all
>> > the code we distribute.
>>
>>>
>>> I have for a long time tried to convince "Bluechip" to
>>
>>
>> > identify himself, but he steadfastly refuses. Today I
>> > tried and failed yet again. I see no other solution
>> > than to remove the offending code.
>>
>> I am a strong advocate of privacy and have to side with Bluechip on
>> this one. Suppose, for instance, that Bluechip holds a job with the
>> RIAA. Should he be forced to put his job at risk because he
>> contributes to a project that promotes MP3 playback (something that
>> the RIAA hates)? What if he works for Creative Labs (in a
>> non-engineering role) but they would view this as helping a competitor
>> (Archos) sell products? What if he is an employee of Microsoft and
>> does not want them to find out that he's contributing to an
>> open-source project? Suppose Steve Wozniak wanted to contribute but
>> did not want to float his e-mail address out there for all to see? I
>> could certainly understand his desire to use a pseudonym.
>>
>> Knowing the name of a person who contributed code would not put the
>> Rockbox team on any more solid legal footing. Knowing a name or
>> pseudonym is no different if you have never met the person. Could you
>> point him out in a court of law if you knew his name? No. If
>> Bluechip told you his name was "Bob Smith", how would you even know if
>> that was true? If you were sued by Archos and could tell them that
>> his name was "Bob Smith", how would that improve your position over
>> just knowing him by his pseudonym of Bluechip? Do you think that
>> Archos's attorneys would say "well, so long as you know his name,
>> we'll drop this lawsuit"?
>>
>> Regards,
>> Fred Maxwell (or so you believe...)

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