A few days ago, I wrote about the scary Terms of Participation on Java.net. This led to some internal discussions, and it turns out to be more complicated than it you’d think; to start with, SourceForge and CollabNet have more or less the same indemnities. I still think it would be nice to get rid of them, but it’s not a slam-dunk.
Why Is It This Way? · The explanation I got is like this: More or less anyone can publish on Java.net; suppose someone posts some language or code that is totally flagrantly illegal. The lawyers are worried that whoever sues will go after the person who was bad, their employer, and us, as operator of the site. Thus the language.
At one level I suppose it’s sane. If someone from Oracle was bad and everyone got sued, Oracle having to cover Sun’s costs wouldn’t be a big deal in the big picture. And if it was Joe Random Independent Hacker, there wouldn’t be much left for Sun after Joe’s butt had been litigated into oblivion.
Still Unhappy · But I still don’t like that language. I am totally not a lawyer, but I read that Terms of Participation; it looks like we’re already making people agree to take full responsibility for their postings, and I’m told that if something bad shows up on a web-site, being responsive and prompt in taking it down puts you in a reasonably strong legal position. So, I’m going to go on grumbling about this, but if anything happens, it’s going to be on a corporate timescale, not a blog timescale.
Personally, I think that when the goal of a site is community-building, we should tilt the balance a little bit, toward friendliness and away from maximum legal belt-and-suspenders safety.