empowering users
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The Legal Network

Rules for the Legal Network

The Legal Network fosters a productive, cooperative discourse in a private setting, enabling the members to discuss legal questions away from contentious public debate. To be true to this objective, participants should be free to express bold, innovative ideas while feeling safe from judgement and personal attacks.

During the several years in which the Legal Network existed, a set of rules and practices has emerged and evolved according to its increasing size. Some of these became crucial to allow the discussions to be productive, others are simply good practices that facilitate our work. For transparency and ease of access we have collected them all here, grouped in substantial regulation and procedures.

Behaviour on the Legal Network

To ensure that freedom of expression and peace of mind are available to all those engaging in the discussions, the Legal Network requires their members to abide to its Code of Conduct, which extends to the Legal Network mailing list and all Legal Network events. To allow participants a greater degree of independence and encourage them to propose bold ideas, any communication on the Legal Network mailing list and at Legal Network events is also protected by the Chatham House Rule.

The inability to comply with the following rules, assessed by the Legal Team, can result in sanctions.

The Legal Network Code of Conduct

The Legal Network and its associated events are intended for professional non-partisan networking and collaboration in the Free Software community. Participants are expected to behave with courtesy and according to professional standards suitable for the widest international audience. Participants should at all times feel at ease expressing their own opinions on any relevant subject they feel is worth being considered by other members, without fearing any form of attack, reprisal or harassment.

While on the FSFE IT infrastructure made available for the Legal Network (e.g. mailing lists, wiki) and at its events or related professional or social networking opportunities, participants shall not engage in discriminatory, disparaging or offensive speech or actions, including as to gender, sexuality, race, nationality, religion or profession, and in particular regarding any other member of the Network. Speakers should be especially aware of these concerns.

Neither the FSFE nor the Legal Network tolerate or condone any statements or actions by participants contrary to these standards. The FSFE’s Legal Team reserves the right to deny entrance and/or eject from an event (without refund) or its IT infrastructure (e.g. mailing lists, wiki) any individual whom it considers to be in breach of this code of conduct, even in private settings or non-Legal Network media such as blogs or public forums, when related to discussions that happened on the Legal Network or at its events, or in relation to its members as such.

Please bring any concerns to the immediate attention of the Legal Team, at legal@lists.fsfe.org detailing the events and possibly providing a reference to any recording1 of the facts.

Unless explicitly otherwise stated for specific communication or where the relevant parties agree to being identified, the Legal Network and its associated events are held under the Chatham House Rule2. Participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.

The Chatham House Rule

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.

Etiquette and Moderation Policy

All public facing contributions on the mailing list are moderated by the FSFE to keep the discussion flowing and to maintain community and focus.

We wish to build an online space for community building and working towards solutions. Accordingly, we want to discourage communications that can have a chilling effect on participation on the list.

Etiquette Guidelines for the Legal Network

General points of etiquette

Please respect the views of other participants on the list even if you don’t agree with them.

Be constructive. It is okay to disagree, and debate is encouraged. However, please keep the dialogue positive and respectful.

Always keep the discussions civil, even if this can be difficult in situations where you feel provoked and/or are passionate about a topic. It is important to keep the discussion focused on the issues.

Do not bully, harass, or threaten other participants, whether on- or off-list. It is up to each person on this list to participate in the discussions as much or as little as they wish. You therefore do not have the right to demand that another user supports their position with a detailed argument or respond to your questions (for example).

Avoid frequent and rapid posting

As we are aware that many members of the Legal Network sign up to the mailing list using their work email, moderation is therefore employed in an attempt to reduce the signal-to-noise ratio. If an individual on the mailing list posts frequently on a single topic within a short period of time, the moderators can decide to place them on moderation (a process explained below), in order to control the volume of mail that the Legal Network mailing list pushes on to its members.

This has been adopted as there is a concern that a topic that gets dominated by multiple postings by a few leaves no room for others to productively participate; that a large volume of incoming mail can cause established members to disengage from the discussion and/or mailing list, and discourage newcomers from participating as they may feel excluded or uninterested.

Avoid advertising and self-promotion, or promoting causes or commercial interests

Please refrain from advertising and/or self-promotion, soliciting for commercial activity, as well as pressuring your fellow list members into joining your pet causes. Do note that the mere mention of a cause, interest, and/or commercial activity is not in itself a reason for moderation, if it is relevant to a discussion.


In certain cases, a moderator may step in to place a particular user under moderation for a period of time. This means that the particular user’s emails are withheld for review by a moderator before they are approved to go through to the mailing list.

Members placed under moderation will still be able to participate in Network discussions. Being under moderation does not mean your messages are blocked, nor that you are forbidden from participating in the discussions.

When someone is placed on moderation, the fact of this and the reasons for doing so are communicated to them offlist, to avoid causing embarrassment or singling any particular person out.

If you have concerns about moderation, please do not raise them on the mailing list as it will disrupt the flow of discussion. You may direct your queries and concerns to contact@fsfe.org.

Procedures for the Legal Network

Several procedures are in place to report breaches of the regulations, joining the Legal Network or creating additional groups.

In order to play a constructive part in the discussion and to give your views maximum impact, we encourage you to follow the etiquette guide below.

Joining the Legal Network

Given the high level of confidentiality of some discussions, admission to (and continued membership in) the Legal Network is subject to the approval of the FSFE’s Legal Team and depends on the respect of the Legal Network regulations.

Successful applicants will have profound expertise in legal matters pertaining to Free Software, and will join the Network in order to share their knowledge with their peers from around the world. While some members are indeed affiliated with prominent companies or organisations, this does not constitute a factor in assessing membership, which is awarded on a personal basis.

The Legal Network thrives in the diversity of its members. As such, there is a particular interest in welcoming new experts from the geographical areas that are currently under-represented (i.e. Eastern European countries, the Baltic states, Asia, South America and Africa).

Traditionally, a new member is presented to the FSFE’s Legal Team by a Legal Network Member, but any presentation email will be considered.

If you intend to join or to propose someone as a Legal Network use our application form.

At regular intervals, the Legal Team Coordinator presents the proposed new members to our Legal Team. The Legal Team then decides on the admission of the new members through a vote.

Creating a Special Interest Group

Any member of the Legal Network can propose the creation of a Special Interest Group on a new topic by simply contacting the Legal Team Coordinator or by declaring such interest directly on the Legal Network

Breaches of regulation

The respect of the Code of Conduct and the Chatham House Rule is ensured by FSFE’s Legal Team. Please report breaches as soon as they happen, so that we can take the appropriate measures. Depending on the gravity of the breach and its circumstances, the Legal Team will decide what sanction to apply (e.g. simple warning, moderation period, expulsion from the Legal Network).


  1. Such as e-mails, blogs, news, conference proceedings, papers…
  2. The Chatham House Rule. See also the dedicated Wikipedia page.