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Re: Who can make binding legal agreements

John Goerzen <jgoerzen@complete.org> writes:

> First, I don't believe that SPI has ever granted anyone the ability to
> enter into legally-binding agreements to indemnify (which means to use
> our resources to defend) third parties.  I may be mistaken, though.
> Could you please point out where you believe you derive this ability?

I think I lost a thread of the argument here.  How does the acceptance
into non-free of a package by the ftp-masters commit SPI to a
legally binding agreement?

To start with, acceptance of a package is not signing a contract.  You
cannot be forced into a contract.  You can be in violation of the license
terms, in which case it may not be legal for you to distribute the
package, but it's a bit of a leap from that to legal indemnification.

But even setting aside the questionable assumption that the license could
actually create this situation, I think I missed where the Debian
ftp-masters are legal agents of SPI and are in any way capable of
committing SPI to any sort of binding contract.  We had this discussion
all the way back at the beginning of this thread, and I've yet to see how
the actions of the ftp-masters create any legal jeopardy for anyone other
than themselves and possibly non-free mirrors.

How does legal liability for SPI enter into this picture?  I'm confused.

> And Debian is not SPI's governing body.  Debian is not a legal entity on
> its own (after all, that's why SPI was created).  If a legal entity must
> enter into an agreement on behalf of Debian, that legal entity is SPI.
> No SPI member project is authorized to make contractual arrangements
> like this on behalf of the whole organization, and thus potentially harm
> not just their own project but also SPI and other member projects.

Which would imply that no legal agreement has been entered into on behalf
of Debian, yes?  If SPI is the only body who can do that, and SPI has not
delegated that authority to anyone who took an action in this situation,
problem solved, no?

The advice to check with SPI's lawyers I *do* agree with.  I think it
would be excellent if they were involved, and I think it would be an
excellent idea to involve them even now.  If nothing else, I expect that
would neatly cut through the uncertainty and legal speculation and provide
a real opinion on the license.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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