Re: [Spi-private] Re: Josh Berkus's platform on political activity, was: money handling

From: Ian Jackson <ijackson(at)chiark(dot)greenend(dot)org(dot)uk>
To: spi-general(at)lists(dot)spi-inc(dot)org
Subject: Re: [Spi-private] Re: Josh Berkus's platform on political activity, was: money handling
Date: 2006-07-18 17:23:56
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I would like to point out some things that some people (Josh perhaps
included) aren't clear on:

* Most of the money and other assets that SPI legally owns are held
in trust for the corresponding Associated Projects. See the
Framework for Associated Projects [1]. The terms of the trust are
the Framework itself and any other agreements between the project's
representatives and SPI.


This means that SPI is legally obliged to use these assets as
directed by each Project, provided of course that that doesn't
conflict with SPI's own need to use its assents only for the
furtherance of its charitable purposes (this is spelled out in the

This means that SPI is not able to arbitrarily freeze the funds
allocated for particular projects. Of course SPI might refuse to
spend these funds in ways that SPI considers are inconsistent with
SPI's goals (as set out in the bylaws) or legal obligations. As
the trustee and as a charity, SPI has to take responsibility for
these kind of decisions.

In principle it would be possible for a disagreement about whether
some use of SPI funds held in trust for a Project conflicted with
SPI's goals to be resolved in court: someone intended by the
project to be a beneficiary could sue SPI for breach of the trust.
Of course we all hope it wouldn't come to that!

(As an aside, this is why the earmarked funds should be reported as
liabilities in SPI's balance sheet.)

* SPI is already officially opposed to software patents. See the
Position and Promises about Intellectual Property [2].

So if a Project wanted to register a patent we would want to be
clear that the intent was for defensive use only, and then once
registered SPI (as the legal owner) would use the patent only
defensively. SPI would refuse to use the patent to generate

I hope that no SPI Associated Project would ask SPI to spend SPI
money earmarked for them on a software patent for revenue
generation. If they did ask that we would find ourselves in
serious dispute with them.

On the other hand, of course, SPI won't spend money earmarked for
Projects on campaigning against software patents unless directed by
the Project (see above). And in general we'd probably want to
consult our lawyer before we used charitable funds for these
purposes, because of the legal restrictions that usually apply to



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