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Philo oughta write a book

I know this has nothing to do with JOS strictly speaking, but I for one would love to read Philo's book about
-Law for software developers or
-What Everyman should know about the law
That kind of thing. Whaddaya say Philo?

Israel Orange
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I second the suggestion. Philo you gotta write a book. Even if it's a compilation of all the comments that you've put on this forum.

The One You Loved (TOYL)
Wednesday, August 27, 2003


It would be VERY easy for Philo to present at a conference.

He'd be a natural for The open source Conference by O'Reilly if he studied the GPL, BSD, etc.  The session could be something like "Just enough law to keep you out of trouble" or "Know when you need to call a lawyer, and how to avoid it" or something like that.

A session on Intellectual property rights would be good as well.

For ACM or IEEE, you typically write a 10-20 page paper and then present on that paper.  He could do that as well.

This semester, our "capstone" project is a conference-worthy paper, so I'm going to try to shop it around.  We'll see.

Bottom Line:  Yes, he should get published.  I think the easiest route is to produce a paper and put it on his web-site, then present on it.

Oh, that way it would be free to me.  hmm ...

Matt H.
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

  What about a site?

  "Philo On Software's Law"

Ricardo Antunes da Costa
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Is Philo an attorney?

Dave
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Not to say Philo shouldn't write a book, but there is an excellent book published by Nolo Press called "Software Development: A Legal Guide".  Nolo focuses on publishing really good and easy-to-understand books on law for laypeople, not lawyers.

I would add a big warning, though.  It's easy for a layperson to read a Nolo book and think somethings perfectly clear when in fact they're misunderstanding it.  So if you're dealing with an important situation you'd almost always be well-advised to get advice from a lawyer who specializes on the subject you're interested in, or who at least has plenty of experience in it. 

The Nolo books are great, but in most cases they aren't a substitute for a lawyer.  Read the Nolo books to get a general knowledge, to handle little things yourself, and so you can be a good consumer of real legal services.  You know the old saying, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."  Unfortunately, it's often very true regarding legal issues.

I'm a former lawyer myself, and I wouldn't trust my own judgment about a lot of things regarding software legal issues.  I'd pay to get advice from a lawyer deals with software issues every day for a living and who has a good "feel" for them.

People tend to have negative opinions of lawyers.  But trust me, if you've got a small business a good lawyer can be a huge asset.  You want one on your side.

It turns out the newest edition of the Nolo book I mentioned is called, "Web and Software Development: A Legal Guide:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0873376455/qid=1061994075/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-3347436-5156745?v=glance&s=books

The same author has another Nolo book titled, "Copyright Your Software":
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0873377192/qid=1061994075/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/104-3347436-5156745?v=glance&s=books

Herbert Sitz
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Why?

From what I've seen, Philo only dabbled in law. I'm not certain that I would turn to him if I wanted an expert opinion on software and legal issues.

If I were a lawyer and I wanted an expert opinion on software, I wouldn't turn to one of my lawyers who just happened to have played around with VB during college. I would call someone who makes a living developing software.

Likewise, if I wanted an expert opinion on the law, even the law regarding software, I would contact someone who makes a living as a lawyer, not a software developer.

Not Philo
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

on asking lawyers. i've seen a situation where an expensive and supposedly expert lawyer was asked for an opinion on a software subject. they said 'you cannot do x with y'. however a cursory reading of the license related to y said explicly 'you may do x'. which one is right?

mb
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

hmm..  your anecdote definitely establishes a universal rule...


Wednesday, August 27, 2003

"an expensive and supposedly expert lawyer was asked for an opinion on a software subject. they said 'you cannot do x with y'. however a cursory reading of the license related to y said explicly 'you may do x'. which one is right? "

Without knowing more, who knows?  As a lawyer I don't put much stock in what a layperson gets out of a legal document through a "cursory reading".  Were there any conflicting provisions?  Were there any provisions that qualified the provision that said, "you may do x with y".  Did it actually say "you may do x with y", or is that just a paraphrase of what a non-lawyer thought it said?  Is there any applicable law that might prohibit one party from allowing another party to 'do x with y'?  Way too many variables to say anything one way or the other.

Another issue would be whether the "expensive and supposedly expert" lawyer was expert in software law.  An expensive lawyer who is expert in some other area is not the best lawyer to choose regarding software.  Was the lawyer in fact representing a client and had the lawyer done a complete reading of the license?  Or was the lawyer just giving some "freebie" advice?  Was the lawyer answering the question the person thought they had asked (or did their question actually mean something else to the lawyer)?  Was the person properly understanding the advice the lawyer gave? 

One thing I can be pretty sure of.  Regarding legal issues, it's not very often that I'd trust the opinion of a layperson over the opinion of a lawyer.  About as often as I'd expect a person-on-the-street to be better than a software developer in answering a question like, "what is the difference between static and virtual methods?". 

Herbert Sitz
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

http://www.crynwr.com/cgi-bin/ezmlm-cgi?3 might be a good place for legal advise on software, too. Although it's centered around the ramifications of OSS development, you can find a bunch of field experts there who might also help on aspects of proprietary software.

Johnny Bravo
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

The problem with most lawyers is that anyone who is really good with software won't become a lawyer - the money in software is too good and the working conditions (PHB's besides the point)are 1000% better than just about any law firm in the country.

Before the software explosion, patent attorneys charged a premium. Why? Because to be a patent attorney, you had to be a lawyer with an engineering degree, that that just simply didn't happen. A vast majority of attorneys, esp. prior to the dotbomb, majored in "fuzzy subjects" - english, political science, etc. Of course there are exceptions, but that's the guideline.

I said "before the dotbomb" because that shook a lot of things up and I don't have a current pulse of the situation of, for example, software types who dove into law for income protection, or pre-dotcom attorneys who went IT for the dotcom, then moved back.

But I still feel it's safe to say that a majority of attorneys do NOT understand the first thing about IT, and I feel secure in saying it's easier to work software and speak IT law with just a law degree than it is to work the law and speak IT law with just an IT degree. And I know practicing lawyers that agree with me. (I also know of at least three specific cases that were lost because the lawyers and their tech witnesses couldn't communicate)

Finally, I simply have to say that I am very, very flattered by the praise. [snif] I love you guys!

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Patent lawyers are incredibly expensive not only because they need to have the rare combination of technical, legal and presentational skills, but also because there is simply so much research that needs to be done before any case.

And to make things more complicated, you have to deal with loads of different legislations, not only between different courntries, but also between different jiurisdictions in the same country.

On another tack, I would like to partially disagree with Herbert Sitz. I would prefer the opinion of a top lawyer over that of a layman any time, but I would probably trust the educatied layman's opinion over that of a mediocre lawyer. Cheap lawyers are for people with money to burn.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, August 28, 2003

"but also because there is simply so much research that needs to be done before any case."

No, that comes out in the number of hours billed. The premium is the price per hour that you pay.

"And to make things more complicated, you have to deal with loads of different legislations, not only between different courntries, but also between different jiurisdictions in the same country."

Wrong on both counts.
If the client wants a US patent, the baseline legal knowledge necessary is the US Patent Manual. There are no state or local patents in the US - it's all federal.

Agreed that the growth of international patent law presents an increasing body of knowledge, but that's simply par for the course in having a skill.

Again, the main reason is simply that you have one person with two premium degrees (engineering and law) who has to pass two bar exams (state and Patent).

Philo

Philo
Thursday, August 28, 2003

You're agreeig with me on the first point. You are paying twice over; a premium on the rate per hour because you are dealing with a combination of skill sets, and a premium in the number of hours billed. I also suspect that the fact that a large amount of mind-numbing research is required is another reason for the high billing rate.

On the second count the legislaltion might be federal, but where exactly you place your case will require knowledge of other jurisdicitions.

Suppose you want to sue a Russian company with a server in Ohio that sells most of its software in Califrornia. More than the US Patent manual required here I feel.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, August 28, 2003

And we're just talking patents. An IP lawyer needs to be conversant with a lot more. After all, it is only in the US that software can be patented, and presumably you would have many algorithams that are also part of a program protected by copyright law.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, August 28, 2003

"Suppose you want to sue a Russian company with a server in Ohio that sells most of its software in Califrornia. More than the US Patent manual required here I feel."

Yes, a knowledge of federal law. But it's purely federal jurisdiction. If you want to sue for violation of a US patent, you sue in federal district court. If you want to sue for violation of a Russian patent, you head for the land of caviar and vodka.

"I also suspect that the fact that a large amount of mind-numbing research is required is another reason for the high billing rate."

Research is what lawyers *do*. Patent attorneys do not have exclusive jurisdiction on that, my friend. Check out the paperwork on a class action tort case, or a death row case some time. ;-)

And I'm not sure what your latest post is referencing? The idea that a patent attorney needs to know technology as well as the law? Wasn't that my point?

Philo

Philo
Thursday, August 28, 2003

"I would probably trust the educated layman's opinion over that of a mediocre lawyer. Cheap lawyers are for people with money to burn. "

Depends on what you mean by "mediocre".  If you mean "average", then I would definitely disagree.  Regarding legal issues, I would take the opinion of an average lawyer over an educated layman almost every time (assuming the lawyer has knowledge of the same facts as the layman does).

If by "mediocre" you mean "stupid", then I would be more willing to agree with you.  There are some lawyers out there who aren't very bright.  But they're "below average".  The average lawyer is both knowledgeable about legal issues and pretty intelligent.  If I someone had a choice for whose opinion to take regarding a legal issue, I'd bet on the "average lawyer" over the "educated layman" almost every time.

I assume most of the people on JoS consider themselves "educated laypeople".  All I can say is that if I had to place a bet, I'd certainly bet that a legal opinion from an average lawyer is going to be much better than a legal opinion from someone on JoS.   

That's not to say that there aren't specific non-lawyers out there who may be better versed in certain legal issues than some lawyers.  For example, many accountants know tax law better than the average lawyer.

Herbert Sitz
Thursday, August 28, 2003

As we live in different countries it's hard to come to a decision on the qualities of the average lawyer.

Suffice it to say that if your premise is true all the people I've ever sued have had extreme misfortune in choosing their lawyers :)

I suspect we agree on many things. By the educated layman I mean the specialist layman, as opposed to the generalist lawyer, or worst of all, one who goes by the regulations and not the law.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, August 31, 2003

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