[Cabal] lawyer update

Sean Egan seanegan at gmail.com
Wed Dec 6 19:16:40 EST 2006

I realize that I may have never mentioned who the lawyers are and what
they're doing, so here's a brief overview. Our law firm is the
Software Freedom Law Center in New York City; they're a non-profit,
and they work for us for no charge. We currently owe them about $300
in filing fees, though. Interestingly, they're also the guys writing

We work with three people there:
Dan Ravicher - He's the legal director of SFLC. I read about him going
around the country in giving talks. He took care of all the AOL stuff
at the beginning, but I've heard little from him more recently

Karen Sandler - She's our main contact. She originally started by
taking care of the incorporation stuff, while Dan did most of the AOL
stuff. Now she's taken over all of the AOL stuff.

Matt Norwood - He's a new hire at SFLC. He's pretty much taken up
Karen's old job of incorporating us, letting her focus on AOL. He's
been my contact for knowing what tax forms I have to collect and what
we need to file tax exempt status.

Today's call was with Karen only. Some notes:

- Not as bad as it looked at first pass. Jim Davis says that the
language is too broad (which is correct; we wrote it that way), but
his proposed changes are mostly reasonable.

- The bit about not wanting to cover anything other than use of the
name "gaim" refers to our first paragraph where they waive the right
to sue us for trademark issues. They don't want to realize in a few
months that we're using the term "Buddy List" and be totally out of

- Regarding that, Karen's not sure we should worry about "buddy list,"
right now, but I suspect we'll wind up changing it.

- Additionally, the language Jim Davis proposes is probably more broad
than he intends it. He's willing to give up trademark claims "relating
to use of the name and mark GAIM on or in connection with instant
messaging software." I don't quite understand the specifics but
apparently that "on or in conection with instant messaging software,"
is better for us than it could be.

- They don't want to give carte blanche to an unnamed group of
developers all around the world. They really have no idea who's
responsible for Gaim, and want to have actual names and signatures.
This and not understanding how "Gaim" might be used as a technical
term in a webpage both indicate the general lack of clue about
anything we do. Anyway, this is our biggest objection to his feedback.
We're going to fight this one, explaining that getting 350 signatures
from around the world is a bit of a logistical problem. If he resists,
we'll offer to get signatures from pretty much everyone on this list
and explain that that represents a hugely large chunk of the
contributions to Gaim, but still insist that the settlement covers
everyone who's written a single line.

- They apparently don't have any objection to claiming they know of
nothing wrong that we're currently doing. This is the biggest gain for
us in the settlement. I had originally read his letter as objecting to
it, but Karen pointed out that objection was only to the first
paragraph where they waive the right to sue for trademark

- We're going to emphasize that we don't think we have any obligation
to change our name, and that doing so is a lot of work and a great
cost to us, and that we will not do it unless we get something in
return. Right now, we're asking only for the representation that they
have no problem with anything we're doing. We're also going to ask
them for money (maybe now, probably further down the line), at least
enough to cover the costs incurred to us in renaming, which I'm
putting at about $5000 right now.

- Ultimately, we think that his response is not so bad, mostly just
tightening our intentionally broad language. The biggest thing we have
to worry about is making sure every contributer is covered, and not
just those who sign it.

- We're not admitting we've already done most of everything needed for
the name change, insisting that we're still only considering it. They
keep asking to know the new name. Once we have pretty much settled on
the language, we'll give them the new name and pretty screenshots.

- Karen really likes the Adium duck and hopes that our Pidgin logo
will be at least comparatively cute. She also pronounces "Adium" with
a short 'a' rather than a long 'a', which is how everyone I've ever
heard pronounce it does. Evan, how is it supposed to be pronounced?

- They think that Adium being part of IM Freedom Inc., is a *great*
idea. They just started the Software Freedom Conservancy
(http://conservancy.softwarefreedom.org/), so they have tons of ideas
about how best to manage multiple projects under a single umbrella,
maintaining the autocracy of each, that they'd love to share with us.

- They're going to update the tax-exempt filings to represent that
we're strongly considering running more than one project under our

- For tax-exempt filling, we need to submit an expected 3 year budget
and tell how much time each director is devoting towards working on
the board. I'll probably tell them 1 hour/week for each director, and
maybe 2 for the treasurer and president. If that sounds unreasonable,
let me know.

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