Re: Who can make binding legal agreements
John Goerzen <email@example.com> writes:
> On Tue, Jun 06, 2006 at 07:43:10PM -0700, Russ Allbery wrote:
>> 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?
> The first paragraph of the license linked to by the original
> SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC. ("SUN") IS WILLING TO LICENSE THE JAVA PLATFORM
> STANDARD EDITION DEVELOPER KIT ("JDK" - THE "SOFTWARE") TO YOU ONLY
> UPON THE CONDITION THAT YOU ACCEPT ALL OF THE TERMS CONTAINED IN THIS
> LICENSE AGREEMENT (THE "AGREEMENT"). PLEASE READ THE AGREEMENT
> CAREFULLY. BY INSTALLING, USING, OR DISTRIBUTING THIS SOFTWARE, YOU
> ACCEPT ALL OF THE TERMS OF THE AGREEMENT.
> I'd say we pretty clearly are distributing the software.
You believe that it's pretty clear that *SPI* is distributing the
software? Could you trace your reasoning here?
> It seems that we've got one of two pretty bad situations:
> 1) That the ftp-masters somehow do have legal authority to do this,
> and have just bound SPI to indemnify Sun without SPI even realizing
> 2) That the ftp-masters lack the legal authority to do this, in which
> case Debian (and by extension, SPI) is in violation of the Sun
> copyright on Java by distributing it outside the terms of a valid,
> in-force license
I and several other people have been saying for some time on this thread
that the actual situation is:
3) SPI has no legal liability for the actions of the ftp-masters. That
legal liability is born by the ftp-masters themselves and possibly
by the mirror operators who carry the software in question.
I still haven't seen anything that changes my opinion there. Now, if I
were the ftp-masters, I'd be very uncomfortable with that and would really
prefer to have a liability shield for my actions, but that's really up to
> If Debian is violating a license, what is the target for a copyright
> holder lawsuit?
*Debian* does not exist as an entity, which means that the only legitimate
legal target for such a lawsuit would be the legal entity that performed
the action. Given, as you have said, the ftp-masters are not officers of
SPI or acting on behalf of SPI, it seems pretty clear that the buck would
stop with them.
> Perhaps it is the individual ftp-masters, but I don't think that SPI is
> very far removed from this picture. And of course, if you're some
> MegaCorp, you could just sue everyone in sight, just to be sure.
Well, yes, but they can do that no matter what anyone did. I'm not sure
the ability to target lawsuits at random entities not actually involved is
a persuasive argument for any position.
> Nope, because now we are in the situation of Debian illegally
> distributing software.
*Debian* does not legally exist, and therefore cannot possibly be
illegally distributing software.
Russ Allbery (firstname.lastname@example.org) <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>