[cc-licenses] Lawyers aren't humans

Jim Sowers jim at spincycle.org
Wed Nov 22 02:21:30 EST 2006


Hi Andres,

I agree--I don't mind hearing (and telling) lawyer jokes.  At the risk of
beating a dead horse, my point is less about being sensitive to lawyers, and
more about communicating accessibility to non-lawyers.  In other words, if
someone sees "human-readable", it can also imply that mere mortals should
not attempt to read the actual license because it will be too difficult;
licenses can only be understood by those special people, lawyers.  I know
"human-readable" it is meant to be cute and funny, but the other side of the
coin is a certain condescension about which I think the drafters should at
least be aware.

Jim Sowers



On 11/21/06, Andres Guadamuz <a.guadamuz at ed.ac.uk> wrote:
>
> To be fair, the line "we all know lawyers aren't human" always gets a
> good laugh at conferences :)
>
> There's nothing like a good self-deprecating lawyer joke to break the
> ice with non-legal audiences.
>
> Andres
>
> Jim Sowers wrote:
> > When I was in law school, back in 1986 ;-(  I took a contract writing
> > class.  It had a lasting effect on me.  We practiced writing in plain
> > English -- the teacher worked for Bank of America, and because they
> > had lost some cases because courts had found their contracts to be
> > unintelligible to the average consumer (the other party to the
> > contract), BofA found religion and started re-writing their contracts.
> >
> > We studied a law review article by Richard Wydick, Plain English for
> > Lawyers, which is now in its 3rd edition as a book, and which I
> > mentioned in an earlier post to this list.  The SEC has also imposed a
> > "plain English" requirement on filings.  I think CC has done a pretty
> > good job on this front (with the notable exception of the excessive,
> > and I would argue improper, use of the word "such" as a definite
> > article, see my earlier post).
> >
> > Nevertheless, I think the line at the bottom of the deed that reads
> > "This is a human-readable summary ..." is unfortunate.  Obviously, CC
> > intends to say that it is a simple summary for non-lawyers.  Some will
> > think that I'm being too sensitive here, however, I believe that using
> > the term "human-readable", aside from reinforcing some of the nastier
> > stereotypes about lawyers, also reinforces the idea that lawyers use a
> > different, incomprehensible language.  I find that two types of
> > lawyers tend to do so: those not confident enough to make things
> > simple -- e.g., afraid to replace "any and all" with just "any", and
> > those who are pompous and throw in every heretofore and therewith to
> > add to the cloak of mystery around what it is to practice law.
> > Finally, some of the worst examples come from non-lawyers trying to
> > "write like lawyers".
> >
> > Thus, I would change the terminology to reflect "summary" v.
> > "detailed"  rather than "human" v. "lawyer" -- as even the detailed
> > documents should be eminently readable by humans; those are the kinds
> > of documents really good lawyers write.
> >
> > Jim Sowers
> > Lawyer :-)  (DJ, Dance Teacher, Motorcycle Adventurer)
> >
> >
> >
> > On 11/21/06, *Andres Guadamuz * <a.guadamuz at ed.ac.uk
> > <mailto:a.guadamuz at ed.ac.uk>> wrote:
> >
> >     Luis,
> >
> >     While I don't know if there was any sort of doctrinal
> >     consideration with
> >     the creation of the Commons Deed, I can tell you that at least in
> >     Scotland we drafted the licences under the requirement of writing
> >     form
> >     contracts in "plain intelligible language" contained in section 6
> >     of the
> >     the UK's Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999:
> >     http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1999/19992083.htm
> >     <http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1999/19992083.htm>
> >
> >     Regards,
> >
> >     Andres
> >
> >     Luis Villa wrote:
> >     > Hey, all (but really primarily to the lawyers on the list :)-
> >     >
> >     > As I was stumbling through Contracts this morning (specifically, a
> >     > lecture on interpretation of contracts) I was reminded of the
> human
> >     > readable versions of CC contracts/licenses. The question that
> >     came to
> >     > mind: were those inspired by any particular strain of academic
> >     thought
> >     > on license legibility/usability? Or did they just come out of a
> >     > general ease-of-use impulse? If there was a strain of academic
> >     thought
> >     > on the issue that was inspirational or otherwise important, any
> >     > pointers to where I could start reading?
> >     >
> >     > Thanks in advance- let me know if my question itself is
> >     incomprehensible :)
> >     > Luis
> >     > _______________________________________________
> >     > cc-licenses mailing list
> >     > cc-licenses at lists.ibiblio.org <mailto:
> cc-licenses at lists.ibiblio.org>
> >     > http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/cc-licenses
> >     >
> >
> >     --
> >     Andres Guadamuz
> >     AHRC Research Centre for Studies in
> >     Intellectual Property and Technology Law
> >     Old College, South Bridge
> >     Edinburgh, EH8 9YL
> >
> >     Tel: 44 (0)131 6509699
> >     Fax: 44 (0)131 6506317
> >     a.guadamuz at ed.ac.uk <mailto:a.guadamuz at ed.ac.uk>
> >     http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/ahrb/
> >
> >     IP/IT/Medical Law LLM by Distance Learning
> >     http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/distancelearning/
> >
> >
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> >
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
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> >
>
> --
> Andres Guadamuz
> AHRC Research Centre for Studies in
> Intellectual Property and Technology Law
> Old College, South Bridge
> Edinburgh, EH8 9YL
>
> Tel: 44 (0)131 6509699
> Fax: 44 (0)131 6506317
> a.guadamuz at ed.ac.uk
> http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/ahrb/
>
> IP/IT/Medical Law LLM by Distance Learning
> http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/distancelearning/
>
>
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