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Legal services: an idea for consideration by FBA members

Question asked by dburnham on Sep 6, 2013

QUESTION: Are there other FBA members interested in having, as a new FBA benefit, legal expertise available to FBA members, subject of course to reasonable limitations?




From time to time, many of us encounter business situations that require consultation with an attorney. It would be advantageous if the attorney had a sufficient understanding of FileMaker to be able to offer expert advice. Of course, that advice might have certain limitations and suitable disclaimers to protect the attorney and FileMaker, Inc. However, it would serve everyone's interest to be able to learn from a trusted expert and, if that person was not available on a for-hire basis when needed, be guided with better advice when working with or without our own private legal counsel.


I propose this idea because in litigation it could be difficult to expect a court or a jury to understand what FileMaker is all about, especially in regard to the respective role and responsibilities of each party to a dispute. Also, in crafting contracts for new client relationships, it is more expensive to educate one attorney's about FileMaker whereas it would be more economical to use the service of someone who already has that knowledge. Moreover, the attorney's advice would be more useful and reliable if it was not limited by what he or she is able to absorb from their clients.


A few examples of how FileMaker-savvy expert legal advice would benefit us:

  • A model, or template, work-for-hire agreement that would include the necessary language to protect the intellectual property of the database developer
  • A legal interpretation of the rights conveyed by the FileMaker software license vs. any solutions developed to operate in FileMaker software
  • How to define operational authority regarding the "full access" password
  • Suggestions for solutions marketed under a FileMaker SBA license.
  • Guidelines for owners/administrators of FileMaker Server regarding server or cloud-hosted database


I suspect others would be able to add to this list.


At Devcon 2012, there was an excellent lunchtime presentation (GEN009) by John Pinheiro, FileMaker's VP Legal & Human Resources, attended by about a dozen people. The presentation covered some of the basics about licensing and some interesting current, relevant case law. I know that Mr. Pinheiro cannot --- for various obvious reasons --- be available to FBA members for legal advice, however he might be helpful to FBA members by helping to recruit someone independent of FileMaker Inc, who could become a member of FBA, and thereby serve the community's common interests and needs. Some topics could be easily published in this forum where other FBA members could rely on the advice with the same degree of trust that they place on any other forum post: some members of the community are clearly more reliable as subject-matter experts than others. If he/she is introduced to FBA members with apprpriate credentials, we would be able to make that judgment for ourselves. For services beyong the scope of what's available for free in this forum, the attorney could also offer his services on a fee-basis as needed.


I realize that it could be a challenge or conflict for FileMaker, Inc. to pay the attorney's annual retainer fee for the limited services made available to FBA members and also maintain its independence, but it's worth exploring. If it became necessary for the retainer to be paid out of an independent fund established for this purpose, perhaps an association comparable to FM-PUG could be created for the purpose of collecting the necessary dues.