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Re: Constitution - formal proposal (v0.5)

On 4 Apr 1998, Kai Henningsen wrote:

> dwarf@polaris.net (Dale Scheetz)  wrote on 03.04.98 in <Pine.LNX.3.96.980403123941.2421S-100000@dwarf.polaris.net>:
> > On Fri, 3 Apr 1998, Oliver Elphick wrote:
> >
> > > Dale Scheetz wrote:
> > >   >SPI is incorporated in the US, so none of your discussion of the
> > >   >British tax laws is of any consequence. Ian, as project leader,
> > >   >collects no money and has no control over SPI, and should have no
> > >   >liability here or at home.
> > >
> > > Sorry, but that is wishful thinking. I'm not talking about SPI but about
> > > Debian; as I've already explained, there is at lest an arguable case
> > > that Debian could be regarded as being controlled from Britain - that
> > > makes Ian potentially liable.  We can't afford to pay lawyers to argue
> > > the point here and in every country where the question might arise.
> >
> > But my point was the Debian does not control any money, SPI does, at our
> > behest. That is what it was constructed for.
> Yes, and his point was that the proposed constitution can be interpreted  
> to say otherwise. That is the problem.

I agree.
> Or, in other words, if Debian controls what SPI does with that money, then  
> we have a problem in that the tax authorities will try to claim that it's  
> our money, not SPI's.
> > Which is just another reason that statements about our relationship with
> > SPI should never appear in our constitution. (which I have already argued
> > on other grounds)
> !!!
Don't be so surprised ;-) I'm agreeing.

I have always been uncomfortable with those paragraphs which attempt to
specify our relation to SPI. They are motivated by the wrong pressures,
and personality issues that should never be reflected in our constitution.

> > The Debian Distribution, (the only thing that Debian developers can be
> > held accountable for) is copyright SPI. As the copyright holder, they are
> What we can held accountable for is something the tax people will decide  
> for themselves. Then we can invest $$$ into lawyers to persuade them they  
> were wrong.
> Better to avoid this in the first place.

> > the legal entity that take the heat for the distribution. "Officers" of
> > the Debian organization do not handle or decide in matters of money.
> Just make certain the constitution doesn't say otherwise.

> > > When you are dealing with tax law, you need to think of what the relevant
> > > tax authorities would say, not what you think ought to be the case.
> > >
> > Tax authorities are only of concern if there is any money in question.
> > With Debian, there isn't.
> There is. It's on the SPI account. *If* the tax people decide it belongs  
> to us, they'll make us pay for it. We don't want to get into that fight,  
> so we have to make clear that we don't own that money. Currently, we're  
> not clear enough on that, I believe.
While I agree in principle, it is my position that the coporation of SPI
is the only entity empowered to deal with money. Debian is not so

> For example, we're telling people that Debian accepts donations. The tax  
> people will interpret this as those donations becoming Debian's property.
> I believe we need to say something like "No, Debian doesn't accept  
> donations. SPI does. No, it's not our money."
This is absolutely necessary, constitution or no constitution. The Debian
Project has never and hopefully, can never, accept monetary donations. The
need to deal with monetary problems was one of the driving forces
behind the formation of SPI. We should be very careful not to screw up
such a carefuly crafted circumstance.


_-_-_-_-_-   Author of "The Debian Linux User's Guide"  _-_-_-_-_-_-

aka   Dale Scheetz                   Phone:   1 (850) 656-9769
      Flexible Software              11000 McCrackin Road
      e-mail:  dwarf@polaris.net     Tallahassee, FL  32308

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