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

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Jun 4 15:50:24 UTC 2019

Quoting Henrik Ingo (henrik.ingo at avoinelama.fi):

> I can of course only speak for myself, but I don't think the above is
> the right conclusion at all. Recent mailing list discussion seems to
> have made the point that adhering to precedent is hard, when in most
> cases the process does not produce a formal decision nor any explicit
> justifications for that non-existent decision.

Henrik, I can only say that I've been involved in this process since
nearly the beginning, and that this notion of 'precedent' has simply
never been accepted for the certification program -- and in fact has
been explicitly repeatedly rejected -- partly (my surmise) because
that's a problematic concept when applied to software licences, and
partly (not just my surmise) because OSI approved as OSI Certified some
thankfully obscure, peculiar software licences long ago that it probably
shouldn't have.

I'm sure you're right that some recent folks have stated here that
'adhering to precedent' is difficult:  This is an open public mailing
list; this past month would not be the first time someone has posted
a well-intended statement resting on a mistaken assumption.

> But that shouldn't be taken to say that the OSI isn't bound to
> principles such as consistency, fairness and (some fuzzy version of)
> predictability. 

I'm sure that everyone here aspires to those.

> If OSI would explicitly state that there is no attempt to adhere to
> precedent set by previous debates, IMO it would quickly lose
> legitimacy.

You're of course entitled to your opinion, but it is at odds with OSI
established practice and history.  Also FWIW I do not concur in any way --
completely aside from the fact that it's not even clear what
specifically 'adhering to precedent' means concerning software licences,
since each one really is a distinct case, and subitters saying 'But I
frankensteined this one from two OSI Certified licences!' is a sadly
common gambit that IMO ought not to be lent credibility.

And, FWIW, I am officially tired of ex-cathedra pronouncements that 'OSI
will lose legitimacy if it doesn't do $THING.'  That polemical trope
needs to be retired.

> More generally, OSI only has legitimacy as long as its process
> represents the opinion of the wider open source community. Saying that
> decisions can be more or less arbitrary doesn't make sense.

I note in passing a huge and obvious gap between 'certification
decisions are ungoverned by precedent, but rather decided each time
on the merits of the licence in relation to OSD' and 'certification
decisions are arbitrary'.  

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