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Re: Adobe open source license -- is this licence free?

Steve Langasek <vorlon@debian.org> writes:

> Have you never heard of the concept of a SLAPP suit?  The difference
> in cost to a corporation like Adobe with a standing legal team between
> me suing them in their home court and me suing them in my home court
> is negligible.  The difference in cost to *me* between Adobe suing
> *me* in my home court vs.  their home court is *not* negligible.  The
> difference in cost to Adobe between bringing harrassment suits against
> 200 mirror operators separately in their respective jurisdictions, and
> bringing one suit against all two hundred in Adobe's home jurisdiction
> is *also* not negligible.

For many folks -- and probably most people in the world -- the
difference between being sued by Adobe in California and being sued by
Adobe in their home jurisdiction is actually negligible.  Perhaps not in
terms of dollar amounts, but in terms of ability to pay, both are
completely out of reach without help.  Adobe is as capable of using
harassing lawsuits to get their way without this clause as they are with
it.  So far, I haven't seen any arguments against this claim.

Yes, harassing lawsuits are a problem for free software.  And yes,
ideally the clause would be written so that it only applies when Adobe
is defending.  But less-than-ideal licenses have been considered free
before, and I think this case should be the same.

> Frankly, I find it amazing that even when such clauses are advanced by
> a corporation like Adobe, who has been a veritable *poster child* for
> corporate hostility to Free Software and the concept of a liberal IP
> regime, there are still people who don't get that this additional
> exposure is a loaded gun.

Except it's not a loaded gun.  The added exposure is the difference
between practically infinite and practically infinite plus a large
number.  I.e., practically nothing.

> No, the big deal is about the risks *I* incur.  Free Software isn't
> about making corporations feel good about giving their work away, it's
> not about giving them a vehicle for growing their company's mindshare,
> and it sure as hell isn't about seeing how many different ropes we can
> give copyright holders within the letter of the DFSG before one of
> them decides to hang us.  It's about serving the needs of the *users*
> (being all of us) so that we're free to use, create, modify, and
> distribute.


> I don't see how a choice of venue clause can be accepted
> as "free" -- I certainly don't feel free reading it, and I wouldn't
> feel free exercising any of the usual Free Software rights under such
> a license.  It may be that this doesn't follow directly from the DFSG,
> but if that's the case I believe it's an argument for fixing the DFSG,
> *not* for accepting as free a license that I would personally be wary
> of accepting out of fear of harrassing lawsuits the moment Adobe
> changed its mind about Free Software.

My question is: is the risk of lawsuit harassment significantly greater
due to the presence of a choice of venue clause?  I think the answer is

> If as Nathanael points out the clause were rewritten to be strictly
> defensive, I would have no problem with it; but that's definitely not what
> we have here today.

I agree that that would be better.

Jeremy Hankins <nowan@nowan.org>
PGP fingerprint: 748F 4D16 538E 75D6 8333  9E10 D212 B5ED 37D0 0A03

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