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Re: Question to all candidates: registering Debian as an organization

Hi Bill,

On Fri, Mar 18, 2022 at 1:50 PM Bill Allombert <ballombe@debian.org> wrote:
> Could someone explain what does that mean ?

I'm sorry no one has gotten back to you so far. I do not know which
ideas Jonathan Carter and Brian Gupta (copied as a courtesy) have been

My own thinking on this point is also evolving, as detailed below. I
copied Christan Kastner to make sure he sees this expanded answer.

If the project finances lawsuits, as suggested elsewhere, we may soon
have a liability problem. Newton's law also applies in conflict:
Exerting force always creates a counter-force. (Many folks in Debian
do not understand that basic maxim of diplomacy.) It would only be a
matter of time until we have to defend ourselves.

The same thinking has kept me from pushing for lawsuits as your
trademark delegate.

Assuming we have X amount of money—I'm not sure the amount is public,
and it would be dated anyway—a single lawsuit from a contributor for
harassment at the 2022 Kosovo Debconf, as an example, could wipe us
out. What if the contributor is female? Last time I checked we were
94% male. In a jury trial, the claim could settle at twice the amount
we have, plus inflation. Lawyers fees would be extra.

Our dreams of free software would be gone.

If we accidentally formed a General Partnership, as has been suggested
elsewhere, the plaintiff might be able to collect the award from our
wealthiest members, who would then have to turn around and recover
from the rest of us. It is called the doctrine of joint and several
liability. [1]

Maybe a patent troll would even set up a honey trap for us.

Either way, it would be prudent to solicit broad legal input before
taking steps toward incorporation. As project leader, I would contact
Laurence Lessig [2] at the Harvard Law School as well as Richard
Fontana and Eben Moglen—both long-time friends of the project—to see
if they might host a symposium to help us figure out what to do. (I
have no legal training.) I'm sure some law school graduate or
post-doctoral students are interested in our potential transition.

Looking into the future, please allow me to mention another big idea.

What if the United Nations were to recognize a universal right to
digital access and computing resources? Could Debian become part of a
"World Digital Access Programme"? Under international treaties, I
think it would shield us from most lawsuits in national courts. Our
tax regime would also become super easy—probably none.

Debian runs on older hardware. Plus, we have done a lot of hard work
on international translations!

I have friends who are or were high-ranking officials at the UN. With
the project's permission, I might explore finding a home for Debian
there. Would the UN be an appropriate potential home for our noble and
selfless efforts?

Kind regards,
Felix Lechner

P.S. Everyone, please join #meetfelix on OFTC. I hope to get to know you better!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_and_several_liability
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Lessig

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