Worst Case Scenarios - SPI and Lawsuits
During the conference call the Debian CSS group had with the EFF regarding
Debian's ability to distribute CSS, a number of very important points came
up with regard to SPI's vunerability and resilliance to lawsuits.
1. SPI can't afford to defend even frivilous lawsuits without community
2. If SPI doesn't defend a lawsuit, it will probably lose by default.
3. SPI doesn't have the assets to offset even a very small adverse
judgement during an unsuccessful lawsuit.
4. If a judgement exceeds SPI's total worth (very likely), SPI will be
forced into bankrupcy.
5. SPI's copyrights, trademarks, patents, and domain names are subject to
reassignment during a bankrupcy auction.
6. In the event that copyrights are reassigned, there's no current case law
that indicates for certain if the new copyright holder can revoke prior
Free Software style license grants. Even if they couldn't revoke the
licenses, they could still claim to do so in order to hassle the old
licensees with DMCA infringement notices, etc.
Now here's the sad conclusion I've come to after a few days of thinking:
1. SPI, in its current state, probably will not survive even a frivilous
2. People launch frivilous lawsuits all the time, even without provocation.
3. SPI, even if it is involved only with non-contraversial projects that
tiptoe around the law and potential lawsuit initiators, can not survive
4. People who depend on SPI's copyrights, trademarks, patents (if any), and
domain names are probably screwed should SPI go bankrupt.
Some very important steps need to be taken to ensure that SPI's copyrights,
trademarks, patents, and domain names are not reassigned to hostile third
parties in the event it is forced into bankrupcy. SPI holds the compilation
copyright on Debian, its domain names including debian.org, and a number of
other copyrights on miscellaneous parts of Debian and other Free Software
I've come up with a few potential ways to deal with the copyright issue, but
domains and trademarks are still up in the air. My knowledge of the law is
very limited, so SPI really needs to talk to a competent lawyer - and soon.