Past Engagements

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As largely self-organizing groups, free software projects have always faced unique challenges when they decide to formally incorporate. The choice whether to form a nonprofit or a for-profit carries not only legal but community consequences. Recently, these choices have only become more complex. The IRS is closely scrutinizing the applications of new free software nonprofits applying for tax exemption, and may apply more exclusive criteria to new applications than it has in the past. Recognizing a need, some established nonprofits have begun sponsoring the activity of smaller, unincorporated projects. And several U.S. states have adopted laws authorizing new “hybrid” corporate forms, “benefit corporations” organized for profit but dedicated to the public benefit. This presentation will discuss the changing corporate landscape of free software and discuss how projects should approach these issues when they consider incorporation.

Eben Moglen will be speaking at this year’s LibrePlanet, which will be held this March 24th and 25th in the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Eben will be speaking on the second day of the conference at 10:10 in the U03-3550/Ballroom. The conference is free for FSF associate members and more information is available from the LibrePlanet online schedule.

As a free/open source software project grows from idea to running code to stable release, its developers will inevitably be confronted with a number of legal issues. Some of these issues, like copyright licensing, are widely understood. Others, like the trademark implications of selecting a project name, are commonly overlooked. In this session, two lawyers for the Software Freedom Law Center will explain the basic legal concepts that confront a project over its lifecycle.

Topics will include:

  • Copyrights: choosing and applying a license, understanding contributor policies, and dealing with license interactions and compatibility issues.
  • Trademarks: selecting a project name, drafting an acceptable use policy, and minding the rights of others.
  • Patents: understanding patents and protecting your project from aggressive patent holders.
  • Incorporation: limiting developers’ liability, understanding fiscal sponsorship, and deciding whether to form a nonprofit.

Eben Moglen will be giving the keynote at this year’s annual Morningside Post Conference on Digital Media on the topic of “Navigating the Age of Democratized Media”. The conference is run at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) in New York City. Eben’s keynote will begin at 3:00, right after the opening remarks. The conference is open to the public so if you are in the NY area, come by and take a look.

Available records

  • Audio posted March 2, 2011
  • Video posted March 7, 2011

Karen Sandler, the SFLC’s General Counsel, is participating in a panel at the 5th annual policy forum of the leading IT professional law association in the UK, the Society for Computers and Law. Sandler will discuss her research on free software in medical devices and other free software licensing issues.

For more details about the panel and the forum, visit the SCL website. The SFLC’s paper on free software in medical devices, “Killed by Code: Software Transparency in Implantable Medical Devices,” is available on our website.

Abstract: Mishi Choudhary is the founding director of SFLC India. She started working with SFLC in New York following the completion of her fellowship during which she earned her LLM from Columbia Law School and was a Stone Scholar. Prior to joining SFLC, Mishi was a litigator in different chambers in India with areas of practice covering Corporate and Commercial Law, Arbitration & Dispute Resolution, Property Law, Information Technology Law, Trademarks and Copyrights, Constitutional and Administrative Law. In addition to her LLM, she has an LLB degree and a bachelors degree in political science from the University of Delhi, India. Mishi is a member of the Bar Council of Delhi, licensed to appear before the Supreme Court of India, all the State High Courts in India, and in the State of New York.

The date of this event is subject to change. For more details, visit the Open Source India conference website


Abstract: The World Wide web is less that 7000 days old. In that short time, it has changed human life around the world forever. When it is 10,000 days old it will have begun eradicating ignorance and changed for the better the fate of billions of people, or else it will be constructing the most oppressive system of inequality and un-freedom ever devised by tyranny. In this speech, I consider how, the FOSS community we might affect which happens.

The date of this event is subject to change. For more details, visit the Open Source India conference website.

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