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Linux development and the Cuban blockade (DRAFT #2, plz ACK!)

To Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) <senator@wyden.senate.gov>

Dear Senator Wyden:

I have a question regarding export and blockade laws regarding Cuba in 
relation to a software project that I am working on.  It is an international 
project, with at people from at least 24 countries already participating.

The project is called SEUL ("Simple End-User Linux").  The goal is to create
a distribution of the Linux operating system that can be used by anyone
(ideally in place of Windows95), including home and office users.  Our web
site is http://www.seul.org/.

We have constructed an "expert group" of people from around the world in a 
mailing list hosted on a machine at MIT.  This list will be used to discuss 
what, precisely, is right or wrong with current computer operating systems,
and to try to write down in a formal manner suggestions as to how to make
SEUL better.

An interesting problem has been discovered, however.  We have 39 people on 
the list as of right now, one of which resides in Cuba (e-mail address is 
@comuh.uh.cu).  I haven't checked the rest carefully, as the coordinator of 
the list, who lives in Spain, only mentioned the Cuban resident in his mail.

I have searched Thomas and found the bill in question (HR 927), and found one 
paragraph that may apply:

"Amends the Trading with the Enemy Act to repeal the exemption from its civil
penalties for news gathering, research, export and import of informational
materials, certain educational or religious activities, and certain activities
of human rights organizations."

I have trouble parsing this completely, but it appears as if our work would 
be covered under "research", which can apparently now be prosecuted.

My question is: can we go ahead with our plans of discussing the pros and 
cons of various levels of the operating system (installation, administration, 
user interface, and applications) regardless of where the participants 
reside?  Are there restrictions on what can be discussed, and if so how can 
we be sure to stay within those bounds?

We will be starting our discussion with the current list within a day or two, 
which makes this a fairly high-priority item.  I will be making calls Monday 
to whichever agencies I can find in the Yellow Pages to try to resolve this,
but we would appreciate any help you can give us.

         Erik Walthinsen
         SEUL Project System Architect

      Erik Walthinsen - SEUL Project infrastructure/system architecture
       /  \           omega@sequent.com         Work: (503)578-5314
      |    | M E G A  omega@aracnet.com         Home: (503)281-4281
      _\  /_          psu12113@odin.cc.pdx.edu  Majoring in CS

       SEUL: Simple End-User Linux - creating a Linux distribution
     http://www.seul.org/            for the average home/office user

SEUL-Leaders list, seul-leaders-request@seul.mit.edu