Quick Reference For Choosing a Free Software License

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. rod at cyberspaces.org
Mon Aug 13 20:24:56 UTC 2001

> "Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M." <rod at cyberspaces.org> wrote:
> > My main suggestion, however, was that some of the text - - the legal
> > stuff - -  should be re-written so it is clear that an opinion
> of the author
> > is being expressed rather than a legal opinion being passed on by the
> > author.
> I agree that being able to distinguish which is which will benefit
> the readers.
> But, do you think that readers will see it as the latter
> when there is no reference to case law and the author states
> that he is not a law professional?
> I suggested adding references.  But from your point of view,
> that might make matters worse.  (It is certainly possible
> to provide references to obsolete and superseded case law,
> appearing to offer rigorous, researched legal guidance, while
> being inaccurate.)

Actually, adding case law is a good idea. I would recommend a conspicuous
disclaimer as a header and footer on the page. I forget whether I pointed to
the one at www.ecommercetax.com as an example.

> > I hope my point is taken as constructive. I would never argue that
> > only lawyers should speak on legal matters; journalists and some
> > politicians frequently do a fine job. The critical factor may be to
> > stay within a context (...difficult as that might be in some contexts
> > on the Internet...) where a reader is likely to conclude that they are
> > reading commentary, opinion, or belief, but not legal advice.
> I won't dispute that only lawyers are qualified to give "good"
> legal advice.  But I still don't know why you object to writing
> which "appears to be" legal advice.  If there are inaccuracies
> in the page, let's see them corrected.  Saying the page
> sounds too professional and accurate is strange criticism.

Agreed. It's strange, but the law is strange sometimes.

> Perhaps an admonition should have been directed to the readers,
> since problems only arise if the purpose of the web page is
> misconstrued by them.  The author has already taken honest steps to
> minimize that possibility and I think that approaches the limit of
> what can be done, unless a blank web page is what you advocate.

Well, on my first look at the web page, there were more than a couple of
inaccuracies. If, however, one is merely expressing an opinion about the
law, it doesn't matter as much.  BTW, if you look at the disclaimer on the
website I noted above, you might be surprised to find out that someone may
have missed it when the y recently published a book directing readers to the
website for legal opinions on e-commerce tax issues. (I mention this just to
illustrate how this can get out of hand quickly).

I hope this helps.


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