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The Legal Network

The Legal Network1 is a neutral, non-partisan, group of experts in different fields involved in Free Software legal issues. Currently the Legal Network has over 400 participants from different legal systems2, academic backgrounds3 and affiliations4.

The aim of the Legal Network is to promote discussion and foster better knowledge of the legal constructs that back Free Software. The conversations on the Legal Network are intended to be dynamic, thought-provoking and up to speed with the most recent developments.

Providing a neutral place of discussion allows the Free Software community at large to grow and develop in various ways. Through spirited discussions, the Legal Network can also speculate on possible complications that may arise with Free Software, before they emerge in legal practice. Consequently, it develops solutions and tries to build consensus around them in the Free Software legal community. Members of the Legal Network also use it to improve each other’s expertise in those fields in which they are less well-versed, contributing to the overall improvement legal expertise on Free Software.

The discussions of the Legal Network are held in a private mailing list. Through the Free Software Legal and Licensing Workshop, the Legal Network provides a catalyst for such activities, giving its members a chance to meet in person, present their works and ideas and get immediate feedback.

A Neutral and Protected Space for Discussion

Admission to the Legal Network is restricted, and the discussions held there are confidential. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the content of the mailing list is contained away from the larger Free Software community. The Chatham House Rule applies to all discussions on the Legal Network mailing list and at Legal Network events, which enables members to use the information received, but not to reveal the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker or any of the participants involved in the discussion.

Discussions on the Legal Network mailing list and affiliated events are also subject to a Code of Conduct and general rules of moderation.

The Council of the Legal Network assists the FSFE with administering the Legal Network by providing the advice of expert members. It operates with a collaborative attitude and takes into account input from various sources, including interested parties, prominent members, and the FSFE.

The Council is consulted on the prospective evolution of the Legal Network and operates as an advisory board of sorts for decisions taken by the FSFE.

Special Interest Groups

When a topic that requires more in-depth analysis arises, the Legal Network can sometimes set up a Special Interest Group (SIG). SIGs are subject to the same Code of Conduct as the Legal Network, but participants can invite experts from outside the Network if their input is deemed valuable. When the discussion on the original question has reached maturity, the SIG presents its output to the wider community.

Any member of the Legal Network can propose the creation of a SIG on a new topic by contacting the Legal Coordinator, or by declaring such interest directly on the Legal Network mailing list.

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 and depends on the respect of the Legal Network regulations.

Successful applicants will have expertise in legal matters pertaining to Free Software, and will join the Legal 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).

All applicants should have a current Legal Network member sponsor their application. If you intend to join or to propose someone as a Legal Network member, use our application form application form.


  1. Previously known as "European Legal Network".
  2. The Legal Network currently has members from 28 countries spread over 4 continents.
  3. The Legal Network is composed by highly competent legal professionals, engineers and other professional figures that contribute with their own specific knowledge.
  4. The Legal Network members are private practitioners, volunteers, relevant members of the Free Software community, employees of enterprises of different sizes.