Bare Essentials of Legal Issues for Developers

Bradley Kuhn (Software Freedom Conservancy), Karen Sandler (GNOME Foundation)
Business
Location: E145/E146
Average rating: ***..
(3.67, 12 ratings)

When engaged in Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) development, it is nearly impossible to avoid legal issues and concerns. Every few lines of code written become subject to copyright. Patents seem to cover nearly any code a developer can write. Trademarks may already exist on potential project names for your exciting new codebase.

In FLOSS development, we’d all rather ignore these legal systems that impact our work, but we cannot. In this talk, a lawyer and a software developer team up to introduce the basics of what every developer should know about these legal systems. This presentation helps FLOSS hackers understand the parts of these legal systems that are most likely to effect them, in hopes that they can go about their work armed with the right knowledge and keep the legal details from getting in their way.

This talk will cover:

  • What copyrights are, how to properly mark your project with a FLOSS copyright license, and what issues should be considered when accepting copyrighted contributions from others.
  • How patents work, what a FLOSS developer should know about them, and those areas of development where patents are of most concern.
  • The details to consider when a project considers a new name, and what issues to discuss with your co-developers when considering applying for trademark.
Photo of Bradley Kuhn

Bradley Kuhn

Software Freedom Conservancy

Bradley M. Kuhn is a Director of FSF, President of the Software Freedom Conservancy, and won the O’Reilly Open Source Award at OSCON 2012. Kuhn began his work in the Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) Movement as a volunteer in 1992, when he became an early adopter of the GNU /Linux operating system, and began contributing to various FLOSS projects. He worked during the 1990s as a system administrator and software developer for various companies, and taught AP Computer Science at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati. Kuhn’s non-profit career began in 2000, when he was hired by the Free Software Foundation. As FSF’s Executive Director from 2001-2005, Kuhn led FSF’s GPL enforcement, launched its Associate Member program, and invented the Affero GPL. From 2005-2010, Kuhn worked as the Policy Analyst and Technology Director of the Software Freedom Law Center. Kuhn holds a summa cum laude B.S. in Computer Science from Loyola University in Maryland, and an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Cincinnati. His Master’s thesis (an excerpt from which won the Damien Conway Award for Best Technical Paper at this conference in 2000) discussed methods for dynamic interoperability of FLOSS languages. Kuhn has a regular blog and a microblog (@bkuhn on identi.ca).

Photo of Karen Sandler

Karen Sandler

GNOME Foundation

Karen M. Sandler is the Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation. Prior to joining GNOME, she was General Counsel of the Software Freedom Law Center. Karen continues to do pro bono legal work with SFLC and serves as an officer of both the Software Freedom Conservancy and SFLC. Before joining SFLC, she worked as an associate in the corporate departments of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in New York and Clifford Chance in New York and London. Karen received her law degree from Columbia Law School in 2000, where she was a James Kent Scholar and co-founder of the Columbia Science and Technology Law Review. Karen received her bachelor’s degree in engineering from The Cooper Union.

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