[License-discuss] comprehensiveness (or not) of the OSI-approved list

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Mon May 20 23:43:02 UTC 2019

>From License-discuss <license-discuss-bounces at lists.opensource.org> On
Behalf Of VanL:

> At least for now, and unless the OSI fumbles the ball so severely that it
>> cannot be recovered, I believe that OSI *is* the arbiter of what is Open
>> Source, just like the FSF is the arbiter of what is Free Software. That is
>> a reflection of my perception of the OSI's authority - actual or potential
>> - due to its development and stewardship of the OSD and its ongoing process
>> to certify licenses against it.
Lawyers have a saying that the law is whatever the judge says.
Pragmatically this is a good maxim for lawyers and their clients, but it
it's of no help to the judge, who is sworn to do justice according to the
law. In fact, judges have a good deal of discretion in saying what the law
is, but if they don't exercise it soundly, it comes to a higher court,
ultimately the court of public opinion.

So it is with the OSI, I think.  It's fine for you to write into a contract
that "Open Source license" means "OSI-certified license"; you can define
terms however you like within the scope of the contract.  But the OSI has
to have a model of what is and what is not an open-source license that
isn't just "whatever we say it is".  The OSI may refuse to certify an
open-source license for good reason, but if it capriciously refuses too
many or (Ghu forbid) certifies a license that is plainly not open source,
the wider community will ignore it.

So for clarity's sake, I urge you to write "OSI-certified" when that's what
you mean.

John Cowan          http://vrici.lojban.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
Please leave your values at the front desk.
                --sign in Paris hotel
Check your assumptions.  In fact, check your assumptions at the door.
                --Cordelia Vorkosigan
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