February 3, 2005

Software Freedom Law Center debuts

Author: Jay Lyman

As a result of increased legal scrutiny and scare tactics, some of the top talent in technology law is lining up to defend and guide open source, as evidenced by the announcement of a new law center at the Enterprise Linux Summit in San Francisco this week. The Software Freedom Law Center, to be headed by Columbia University law professor Eben Moglen, Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) General Counsel Diane Peters, MIT scientist Daniel Weitzner, and Stanford Law professor and author Lawrence Lessig, was unveiled as a provider of pro-bono legal services for eligible non-profit open source software projects and developers.

Moglen, who indicated the new organization is becoming increasingly necessary to avoid liability and other legal issues from stifling open source success, said the center would provide legal services to protect the rights and interests of free and open source software projects and developers who do not have the means to do it themselves.

OSDL, which last year announced a $10 million legal defense fund for Linux creator Linus Torvalds and others targeted by litigation from the SCO Group, said it had raised another $4 million for a new "intellectual property fund" that will help establish the new center, to be located in New York. While it will initially be funded by OSDL, it is not affiliated with the non-profit consortium. The center will employ two full-time IP attorneys to start with and should add another two attorneys later this year, according to backers. The Free Software Foundation and Samba Project will be among the first clients of the center.

Samba creator Andrew Tridgell, who recently joined OSDL, called the center -- for which there is no equivalent in the proprietary software world -- an important milestone in the maturity of the free software community.


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