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Re: FilterProxy and DFSG

Jeffry Smith [smith@missioncriticallinux.com] wrote:
> > So...I've decided to remove the usage restrictions, and just put a
> > little rant in the README about it instead.  However, there is another
> > more important reason that I wrote that license, that must be addressed
> > first.
> > 
> > I need to ensure that I am legally protected from "contributory
> > copyright infringement".  That is, let's say some large ISP decides to
> > deploy FilterProxy for all their customers, filtering their ads.  Let's
> > say some large advertiser gets irked that their ads are not reaching the
> > ISP's customers.  In essence, FilterProxy is violating the copyright on
> > the HTML that passes through it.  This is why I wanted to restrict the
> > usage of FilterProxy to individuals that have knowledge of the filtering
> > and give consent.  Then it should fall under "fair use" of the
> > copyrighted HTML.  (just as marking in a book you bought or ripping out
> > pages is legal)  Large advertiser then sues *me* for contributory
> > copyright infringement.  (if it can happen to Napster...)  Filtering
> > proxies aren't large enough to be on their radar yet, but they might be,
> > someday.
> So if I sell a knife, I should be responsible that someone uses it to kill 
> someone else?  If I sell a photocopier, I'm responsible that someone used 
> it to make illegal copies of a book for sale?
> I keep hearing this argument.  The answer is to point out that FilterProxy 
> has legitimate uses, and you disclaim all warrantee (like the GPL does).  
> You cannot be held responsible for someone using your tool to perform an 
> illegal action (or should not).  Napster case is a little different, in 
> that the service they provide (as opposed to SW) is believed to be used 
> mainly for illegal swapping of copyrighted music.  I will also point out 
> that, so far, Napster has been strictly in the preliminary phases, the 
> court hearings actually haven't happened yet.

Well, the argument from a legal standpoint is all fine and dandy, but
the fact of the matter is that I ABSOLUTELY do not want to go to court,
for any reason.  Court battles are really suited to big corporations
duking it out.  The little guy always loses.  And if he doesn't lose,
he's ruined anyway, because he spent so much time and money on it.  I
have better things to do with my life than fight some protracted legal
battle over something that any idiot would say I have nothing to do with
(read: how someone else uses my software).

The fact of the matter is that people have sued gun manufacturers, knife
manufacturers, even storage manufacturers, over illegal acts performed
by people with their products.  Now I agree this is stupid.  But
sometimes the idiots win, and that's what I'm afraid of.

FilterProxy is unlike most other ad-filtering proxies in that it does
actually modify the HTML.  Junkbuster and other similar proxies just
block the load of banner ad gifs, and as such, are much less likely to
be considered to modify copyrighted material.  Perhaps that's why
junkbuster and caching proxies haven't worried about this much.

> > It would appear that the NO WARRANTY sections of the GPL (11 and 12)
> > offer no protection to the software's copyright holder for illegal acts
> > performed by users of the software, using the software.
> > 
> > Any suggestions on this?
> Yep.  That the No Warranty clause does protect, because someone using your 
> tool for illegal acts is performing illegal acts.  Also be careful on 
> stating "don't use to do X because it's illegal" is that the law changes 
> by geography and time.  Many licenses I've seen have boiler-plate about 
> not being able to sell / give the SW to non-residents of the US, due to 
> export restrictions.  Of course a) the restrictions have been eased, and 
> b) that means a frenchman who has the software can't give it to his 
> neighbor without US gov't approval.  Neither of which matter for purposes 
> of the 
> license.
> Bottom line is that the law is the law, contracts don't modify it 
> (remember that a contract must be for a legal purpose).  Also note that, 
> without all elements of a contract, it could be argued that they didn't 
> grant you that immunity, because they haven't agreed to the contract.

So rather than try to make sure the law isn't brain-dead (which wouldn't
work anyway), I should just remind people what my software is intended
for.  Sensible...

> Best bet is to ask politely, deny all warranty (like the GPL does), possibly
>  remind them they are responsible for following the law, and 
> fight for sane laws.

"fight for sane laws".  Egad, when ever I get some money (read: finish
my Ph.D.), my first donations will be to the ACLU and EFF.  Having to
worry about these stupid laws is just...stupid.

Can anyone suggest a country with more sane laws?  It looks like they're
all doing dumb things these days.  But then again, maybe I more
attention to slashdot than I should.  Switzerland is nice...maybe I can
get a job at CERN when I graduate.  ;)

-- Bob

Bob McElrath (rsmcelrath@students.wisc.edu) 
Univ. of Wisconsin at Madison, Department of Physics

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