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Re: Corel Lawsuit



Amy Fong writes:

> In article <19991128023629.C24414@pie.cty-alum.org>,
> Seth David Schoen  <schoen@loyalty.org> wrote:
> >I would again urge everyone to consider careful the difference between
> >
> >- Things That Annoy You About Corel
> >- Mistakes That Corel Made
> >- Things That You Can Sue Corel Over
> >
> >Again, these are not at all the same.
> >
> >It seems that the problems with the Corel EULA are being used as an occasion
> >for flaming Corel, questioning Corel's motives, impugning the competence of
> >Corel's programmers... oh, and, of course, threatening to sue Corel.
> 
> All 3 items are important for consideration. The past behaviour and
> related items do indicate a number of relevant items including whether
> or not they are sincere, whether or not they take comments for granted
> and just ignore it, whether or not they're interested in a working
> relationship and so on.
> 
> It's not just a simple matter of whether or not they should be sued,
> rather, it should be a case of where should things stand between the two
> parties invovled and how should future relationships be defined. 

That makes good sense.  But note the subject of this thread: "Corel Lawsuit".
And note the suggestion of several people, including yourself, that suing
Corel is/may be a good idea.

Figuring out where things should stand and how future relationships should
be defined is helpful and appropriate.

Threatening to sue is -- aside from making a pretty final and irrevocable
decision about the nature of the relationship -- not appropriate, unless
you first try to resolve the situation out of court, and then only upon
the advice of a lawyer.  (The failure to send a demand letter and then
wait to allow it to be acted upon is looked upon _very_ negatively by
judges.  And a polite, non-threatening letter is more appropriate than a
demand letter, especially if you're not _sure_ that you have a cause of
action.  This is true whether or not you despise and distrust the other
party.)

It took me about four or five years of my experience writing polemics to
learn how to write a polite and focused angry letter.  It's still not
necessarily automatic.  But such a thing exists, and whoever has not at
least sent one to Corel is _very_, _very_, _very_ premature in mentioning
lawsuits.

The lawyers at Corel are probably scrambling, now, figuring how they would
respond if someone sued them.  There are more useful things, all around,
that they could be doing.

> >Corel has good programmers, and they have done good things for free software.
> >They've also made some fairly serious mistakes.  Some people might attribute
> 
> Consider this: they consistently make mistakes wrt licensing. How do you
> perceive this? Clearly it seems that Bruce has been trying to show them
> how things should be done and yet they completely fail to listen. What
> does this tell you about their willingness to learn? What does this tell
> you about their level on sincerity? 

I don't know what conclusions I would reach about their sincerity.  I
perceive Corel's mistakes as creating a very negative impression, of the
company in general and also of its free software efforts.  I lose respect
for them.

> >this to the attitude of the company as a whole, and others might suspect it
> >is an artifact of the company's decision-making processes and communication
> 
> I hate to say this but if you want to put things in that perspective,
> then I can argue that M$ is treated too harshly but I've got better
> things to do with my time so I'll stop here.

I have seen Microsoft be treated too harshly on occasion.  It's not a logical
impossibility.

A more important point: I have a friend who is a programmer at Microsoft.
He's not engaged in any vast conspiracies to maintain a monopoly or
suppress free software or anything.  He just hacks on (excuse me, "engineers
according to high standards of quality and reliability") one of Microsoft's
applications.  Now, somewhere else in Redmond, there are people who are
making business and strategy decisions about what to do with his code, how
to increase market share, and so on.  So the company is a complex entity
with many parts, some of which might be ruthless and unethical, and others
of which might be clueless and narrow-minded, and others of which are just
full of programmers who write regular programs in regular programming
languages.  The aggregate result is the Microsoft we know.  If Microsoft
does something perverse, I don't attribute it to my developer friend,
although I might make fun of him over it. :-)

Microsoft even employs some former CS professors and pays some of them to
do academic research.  The place isn't _all_ lawyers and marketing, though
it sometimes feels like it. :-)

(One of the nice things about free software is that "business and strategy
decisions" made by third parties produce much less harm to the end-user.)

> >problems.  (It's not always easy to explain the free software world to
> >lawyers; I've heard the story of a lawyer who, on being shown a planned free
> >software release, expressed grave concern at the serious loophole in the
> >license that would allow _anybody_ -- _anybody_! -- to use and copy the
> >code.)
> 
> Consider this, there are at least n person(s) where n >= 1 (developers)
> in there who have a clue about GPL and such. If they are sincere about
> doing things right, then why don't they consult them? Of what I've
> observed and from what I hear of and know of, they seem to muffle most if
> not all useful suggestions.

A fascinating question.  Corporations, much like people, often don't use
all of the useful information available to them.

I don't know why that is, or whether Corel has any ulterior motives or
secret plans.

Bruce Perens suggested that Corel has even disbanded a committee it had to
try to prevent these problems; if that committee was effective, then
disbanding it was a big mistake.

> >I don't mean to suggest any enthusiasm for the present EULA, or some of
> >Corel's previous licensing problems; it bugs me, too, and, at the best,
> >Corel deserves some criticism.  (Perhaps they are getting a little more
> >than "some".)
> 
> The thing is, will "some criticism" have any impact? Will they listen?
> What if you need to work on common grounds in order for the legal types
> or whoever to understand? Whereby common grounds for legal types would
> involve legal action of course.

Dear Esteemed Corel Legal Department,

	We have had some concern within the Debian Project about the
phrasing of the Corel Linux End User License Agreement.
	It is possible for a user to read this EULA as being in addition to
the terms of the GPL, placing additional restrictions on the use of GPLed
packages.  Surely Corel does not intend to do that, since the GPL sec. 6
provides that

	[y]ou may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients'
	exercise of the rights granted herein.

and GPL sec. 4 provides that

	[y]ou may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program
	except as expressly provided under this License.

	I am concerned about the following passages in the Corel Linux
EULA:

	[...]

A user might, unfortunately, interpret these provisions as sublicensing the
GPLed components of Corel Linux and adding further restrictions to the rights
granted by the GPL.  I {do,do not} believe that this interpretation might be
reasonable; regardless, it would be very helpful to have an explicit
clarification that this is not the case.
	I hope you will clarify the language of the Corel Linux EULA to
indicate more explicitly that your EULA covers only the use of Corel Linux
as a whole, and in no way supersedes, modifies, alters, or restricts the
licensing terms of the individual packages within Corel Linux.

						Sincerely, Amy

> That's if you can. We're not dealing in a ballpark where all parties
> will act rationally.

Corporations do act rationally a lot of the time, although their values
and goals might be different from yours.

slashdot readers will never act rationally, and we can give up hope of
ever seeing them do so. :-) :-) :-)

> >If you see a deliberate and malicious GPL violation, you warn the violator,
> >you verify, with close reading and then with the advice of a lawyer or two,
> >that the GPL is really being violated, and the problem doesn't get fixed,
> >then, by all means, bring a lawsuit.  But I don't think that most people
> >have even begun that process.
> 
> Plus it also sets an important precedence. Future companies can perceive
> this as an example of how much they can bend the rules in their favour.
> They might see this as an "all talk and no action" scenario - they
> simply won't take things seriously anymore.

The creation of an Open Source Legal Defense Fund is a very important goal.
I know that some people are interested in that project, and will probably
need to talk to the FSF, SPI, and the OSI to try to co-ordinate and get
advice.  That fund could be managed by some existing non-profit organization,
or it could be new.  But it would have the services of real live lawyers,
who understand the established ways of handling legal problems.  Politeness,
and efforts at resolving things without litigation, are a big part of that.

-- 
Seth David Schoen <schoen@loyalty.org>  | And do not say, I will study when I
Temp.  http://www.loyalty.org/~schoen/  | have leisure; for perhaps you will
down:  http://www.loyalty.org/   (CAF)  | not have leisure.  -- Pirke Avot 2:5


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