You are going to find yourself immersed in legal issues

The title of this blog post is a quote from Karen in the most recent Free as in Freedom oggcast

FAIF 0x1E:
Legal issues are an inherent part of Free and open source software generally. If you get passionate about Free and open source software you are going to find yourself immersed in legal issues. It's something I think developers are really aware of... much more so than in other fields.

I consider myself to be very passionate about FLOSS and I care about the it's legal underpinnings because I see the enormous potential good FLOSS can bring to addressing the big challenges facing the planet. Continuing to enjoy the right to engage in FLOSS depends on the legal terrain which makes it possible.

We have seen the excesses of copyright maximalists in Free Culture and the damaging impact they can have. The SOPA (PIPA) debates are simply the latest chapter in that saga. Lessig points out that, at least in the USA, we will never win that war until we win the war against corruption of our Republic. We must strike the root of the problem in addition to the branches. I say we must remain vigilant about the branches as well.

FLOSS is another branch which is as important as Free Culture. Understanding that FLOSS is possible due a hack on copyright underscores how critical it is for developers to be aware of the legal environment in which their creativity can thrive. And the escalating software patent war -- especially in Java and mobile -- has had a chilling effect on innovation.

One the strengths (can we think in terms of countermeasures?) of our community is that we function out of basic principles of transparency and respect. The traditions in FLOSS like the traditions in the early open Internet form a culture of true innovation where working code drives collaboration and makes it possible to "stand on the shoulders of giants". Fontana has talked about this lex mercatoria in Free Software as an essential part of understanding the context of legal issues in FLOSS. I hope he will expand on this in his new blog.

I am optimistic that if we combine our brainpower to protect FLOSS as we do to create awesome software we can enable new kinds of working together which other fields will emulate. I can't wait to explore the frontier of the future possible.

Listen to the oggcast introduction [4:25..12:55] (at least) to hear Karen and Bradley discuss the upcoming Legal Issues DevRoom at FOSDEM 2012. The Legal Issues DevRoom Call For Participation closes on December 30 -- please consider submitting a talk today!