[License-discuss] [License-review] Evolving the License Review process for OSI

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Sat Jun 1 14:33:21 UTC 2019

On Sat, Jun 1, 2019 at 8:12 AM Pamela Chestek <pamela at chesteklegal.com>

Speaking personally still (have I made that clear enough yet?), I am
> strongly opposed to any "because we say so" standard of license approval.

Indeed.  As I have doubtless said before (one grows garrulous in one's old
age), lawyer say that the law is what the judge says, and this is pretty
good advice for lawyers.  But it doesn't help judges, who are sworn to do
justice according to law.  On the gripping hand, some people will never
"get it", whether because they are obtuse or because of Upton Sinclair's
remark that you cannot get a man to understand a thing if his salary
depends on his not understanding it.  In the end one can only say what Mr.
Bennett said to his enthusiastic but untalented piano-playing
daughter: "Thank you Mary, you have entertained us quite enough."

> However, Richard Fontana has pointed out the process problem where there
> is a pile-on in license-review, causing the license submitter to withdraw
> the license and then no opportunity for the OSI to provide any feedback on
> what the OSI itself actually thought about the license.

I myself have only seen such pile-ons when the license was obviously
hopelessly flawed and there was no need for OSI to bother considering it.
IIRC, licenses were once submitted to OSI in confidence and only discussed
publicly afterwards, which seemed like a waste of both OSI and
license-discuss/review (not yet differentiated back in the Palaeocene)
members' time.  The order was duly inverted.

> Should the OSI be in the business of giving "advisory opinions," and if
> so, how?

I think not.  Actual submissions (as in "actual cases or controversies")
are quite enough work, and advisory opinions historically haven't gone
well. The Stuart kings had a habit of asking their judges for advisory
opinions, and a short way with those who gave opinions they didn't like.
There are a few cases in a few U.S. states of governors or legislatures
asking for advisory opinions, but overall they are what Topf called them in
his 2011 book: a doubtful and perilous experiment.

> How about how the "Master's-Console Open Source Definitive License," a
> license clearly not ready for review, was handled? The problems were quite
> obvious with it, so does anything more need to be said about it? ICYMI, I
> sent out an email stating we were assuming that it was withdrawn because
> the submitter moved the discussion to L-D, although never communicated to
> us that it was formally withdrawn. Should this have been handled
> differently?

Sounds right to me.

> And what about a license that is approved? Every license has flaws that
> people note. Should a rationale document explain why these weren't
> considered problematic, or is approval good enough?

Although the OSI has no inferior courts to instruct, giving the ratio
decidendi can never be a Bad Thing, though of course it costs time and
energy to produce one (for which no one is paid, unlike judges).

John Cowan          http://vrici.lojban.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
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