Policy Questions (WAS: License Committee Report)

Eric S. Raymond esr at thyrsus.com
Fri Sep 9 18:27:19 UTC 2005

Ernest Prabhakar <prabhaka at apple.com>:
> *MY* impression was the license-discuss list is and was *only*  
> concerned with the 10 criteria in the OSD.   I did NOT get a clear  
> statement that *those* rules had changed. That may well have been  
> your intent, but as far as I can tell it was *not* communicated to  
> *this list* how *our* job had changed.   I knew *something* changed,  
> but I didn't know what. When I asked, I appeared to get the  
> *opposite* answer to what you're giving me now.  Hence, my confusion.

You are correct to criticize us for not having been sufficiently explicit.
That was the Board's error, for which I apologize on behalf on the Board.
I am certain the other Board members will concur in this.

The three new criteria were deliberated on and voted in by the Board.
We contemplated adding them to the OSD, but decided instead to treat them
as administrative criteria.  The reason for this decision was that the
OSD expresses philosophy, while the three new criteria are about the
way the philosophy is implemented.

Matters are slightly complicated by the fact that these criteria were
voted in just before I became an observing rather than voting member
and we seated several new voting members.  I am taking it on myself to
speak for the Board in this matter because I drafted the criteria in the
final form under which they were approved.  

I speak under the possibility of correction by other Board members who
were present, but my recollection and the minutes are clear.

> However, I believe that right carries with it certain  
> responsibilities.  In particular, I believe OSI has an obligation to  
> definitively answer the following questions that this list is  
> implicitly asking:
> a) Is it in fact official OSI Policy that it is the job of *license- 
> discuss* to evaluate licenses against *all 13 clauses* -- including  
> the three that are not in the OSD?  If so, where is that explicitly  
> stated? If not so stated, will you please make that completely clear  
> to the casual observer, so we know where we stand?  Or do you only  
> want license-discuss members who can piece together their job  
> description on their own?
> I will submit to your right to decide as long as the OSI accepts it's  
> responsibility to educate people about the implications of that  
> decision.  Fair enough?

Eminently fair.  I am certain the Board as a whole will concur.

It is the job of license-discuss to apply all 13 criteria.

> And perhaps more importantly:
> b) If we think that policy is a bad idea, what should we do?  I feel  
> like I've heard at least three different perspectives on that from  
> board members:
> 	i) Give us feedback here in a civil and constructive manner, and we  
> will give it due consideration
> 	ii) Please give us feedback in a *different* forum, as that is  
> beyond the scope of this list
> 	iii) Shut and go away.  This decision is now final, and no longer  
> open to question.
> Which, if any, is the official, final OSI policy? If none of the  
> above, then what is it?
> I am not being facetious or rhetorical -- I myself have implemented  
> all three options during my career, as circumstances warrant; none  
> are inherently wrong (thought they may be unwise on occasion).  I  
> just want to know where the OSI Board stands, so I can make an  
> appropriate decision regarding my own involvement.

Your question is well and fairly posed.  I will answer as best I can 
personally, inviting correction from other Board members but with reasonable
confidence they will concur.

If your position is that the Board lacks the right and duty to make 
policy decisions of this kind, we'd prefer you shut up and go away.  
OSI has the rules and bylaws it has for good reasons.

If your position is that OSI acted legitimately in setting the
criteria but the criteria are broken, then we want to know why and how
to fix it.  However, we have a concern that extended back-and-forth on
license-discuss itself will crowd out the actual mission of the list,
which is to

1) advise the Board *before* policy decisions are made

2) *implement* the policy decisions after they are made

Note that "Disputing policy decisions after they have been made" is
not on this list.

My own preference in this situation would be for the license-discuss
members who believe the criteria are broken to put together a statement
of position and recommendations for action, off-list, and then have
a representative (perhaps yourself) present it to the Board directly 
on the Board list.
		<a href="http://www.catb.org/~esr/">Eric S. Raymond</a>

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