License Committee Report for September 2005

Michael Tiemann tiemann at
Fri Sep 9 18:15:24 UTC 2005

Let me add my bit of history to this mix.  I'm about to go to bed (I'm
in India right now) and I don't have a handy reference (thought I bet
Russ can find it), but some years ago, some person submitted a license
to the board with the express intention (I believe) of determining
whether the OSI would approve a trivially derivative license which I
remember to be called "Dave's Open Source License".  I don't remember if
it was BSD with BSD changed to Dave or MIT with MIT changed to Dave, but
by submitting a license that was differentfrom a well-known OSI-approved
license only in name, this license determined by precedent whether the
OSI should potentially billions of open source licenses, each with just
a different name, or not.

In that case, and this was to my recollection at least three years ago,
we rejected that license.  In fact, that license may have been the one
that planted the question "should we begin to worry about license

So it's not as if we've just changed behavior overnight, we're just
trying to codify and clarify our behavior (over time).  And I, for one,
am glad to see people asking to see us clarify our clarifications.


On Fri, 2005-09-09 at 13:46 -0400, Forrest J. Cavalier III wrote:
> Russell Nelson wrote:
> > Forrest J. Cavalier III writes:
> >  > I don't blame you for making an honest mistake.  But because ESR
> >  > was writing to Ben, not Alex, the meaning of ESRs "when you walked in"
> >  > is quite different.
> > 
> > Oh, yes, I see what you mean.  I totally lost the "rules" under
> > discussion.  But you're still wrong about "Someone changed the rules."
> > OSI has always done exactly what Eric describes.  If you want to
> > maintain that we changed the rules about how OSI operates, then you
> > should explain what you thought the rules were previously, and what
> > you thought the rules were changed to.
> To the OSI board:
> At the end of the day, the OSI board gets credit and blame, so of
> course they get to make the decisions however they like.  No change there.
> Here's how I now understand the change in a nutshell....
> First, some history: The OSD's predecessor, the DFSG, were decided
> post-facto. In other words, someone sat down and said "Here are the
> licenses we are comfortable with, let's determine the boundaries
> of this set, and then we can use the criteria to evaluate if other
> licenses also are inside the boundary."
> (This method of creating criteria is good, and much better than
> writing such a constitution by thought-experiment, for example.)
> Then the OSI board basically decided, without explaining or justifying
> to volunteers that.....
>        There are some "unwritten" criteria that we have been applying,
>        like reusabilty, and non-duplication, that we ought to codify
>        into the approval process.  We aren't changing the boundaries.  We
>        aren't changing what we think of "good for the community" vs
>        "drain on the community."  We need to formalize it.
>        Since we aren't making a change to the boundaries, just being
>        more formal, we do not need to get input or encourage our volunteers
>        to support this.  They are already with us.
> Assuming my description is an accurate picture of how the board acted, I think
> the assumption that the volunteers needed no encouragement was not true.
> My understanding of this has been enlightened recently, and I have a suggestion
> I would like to submit to the board:
> I think we need to be guided by this principle: Many eyes make all bugs shallow.
> Discussing the previously omitted criteria being adopted into the OSD proper
> will probably go a long, long way to encouraging the grumbling volunteers to continue
> participating in that this valuable community.  This has to be approached as an
> examination of describing the pre-existing boundary of "goodness", not as it was presented:
> moving the boundaries to let the lawyers work easier.
> I am confident that after this process, the 3 extra criteria will survive, maybe a
> little less agressive, but very much more clear and easy to apply.  The license
> wizard/recommendation will cover any lost ground.
> Respectfully submitted,
> Forrest Cavalier

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