[License-discuss] [License-review] resolving ambiguities in OSD [was Re: For Approval: License Zero Reciprocal Public License]

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Oct 26 05:33:52 UTC 2017

I've moved this to license-discuss because I'm not sure this is
part of discussion of any licence being evaluated, any more.  I 
could be wrong (and am certainly not criticising upthread posts).

Quoting Luis Villa (luis at lu.is):

> Again, OSI would be well-served by actually writing down the non-OSD
> criteria, or publicly admitting that the criteria are not agreed-to and
> non-transparent. I realize this would not be easy, but the current
> situation benefits no one.

When you say 'the non-OSD criteria', this assumes there is a set the
Board (and most outside commmenters?) would agree on.  That might be
true or might not.  The set Bruce adduced on license-review strike me as
capturing points most often mentioned.  

Let's suppose that set were listed on https://opensource.org/approval
with framing like 'OSI's Board cannot guarantee that the License Review
community will be interested in and comment on your license.  Reasons 
participating individuals have cited for disinterest in some past
licenses include perception that the license is a vanity license or
duplicative, that it is needlessly specific to one business entity, 
that it is unjustifiably opaque or ambiguous in its wording, that it was
not drafted with a lawyer's review or has legal flaws suggesting legal
review was inadequate or unheeded, that it is essentially unused by
significant amounts of current software and appears unlikely to beecome
so, that it unduly burdens use by developers, business, or end-users, or
that it increases license proliferation and the complexity of the
resulting combinatorial license matrix without adequate compensating
merit.  All of these criteria are judgement calls be individual
participants, and end up mattering to those individuals (the License
Review Chair, OSI's Board, and outside participants) irrespective of
their being entirely informal and outside the OSD's wording.  At other
times, otherwise frequent commenters may withhold comment because they
lack specialized expertise, or just aren't interested.  Please note,
too, that individual participants tend to be unswayed by the argument
that you assembled your license using bits and pieces of previously
approved license, if those other concerns apply in their view.'[1]

Ask yourself, is that really an improvement?  (Even imaginaing better
wordsmithing than mine, I have doubts.)  In my experience, submitters
invariably think such judgements are wrong in _their_ cases or should be
set aside for their benefit.  Also, these really _are_ judgement calls:
For example, license-review has appeared to take seriously, over the
last few years, a number of permissive licenses I considered lacking any
reasonable purpose.  Other regulars obviously have greater patience in
that area.  So, whose non-OSD criteria are worthy of mention?  Other
than mine, of course.  ;->

What I'd predict is that this would merely shift the bone of contention.
Scorned submitters would rail against non-OSD criteria being unfair,
vague, and also wrongly applied (reminiscent of the old joke about
'terrible food, and such small portions!').  This will then be followed
by the now-obligatory declaration that OSI is irrelevant and [something
du jour] has replaced it.

[1] Here I've used Yank-standard spelling because 
https://opensource.org/approval does.

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