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

Pamela Chestek pamela at chesteklegal.com
Sun May 26 12:31:43 UTC 2019

On 5/26/2019 3:04 AM, Rick Moen wrote:
> Please pardon a wee bit more pontificating:  I take Board good faith
> Board as given, but IMO it's well to be wary of Internet gamesmanship,
> that a cynic might imagine being behind _some_ claims of oppression from
> some never-identified silent majority[1] or whatever.
Hi Rick,

Speaking in my personal capacity here and quoting only a bit of your
email for context, but I take your point in the whole email.

What I believe you are linking two things happening that are actually
unrelated. Putting the content of the recent open source license
submissions aside, the OSI has been criticized recently on two vectors,
that the mailing list fails to function as originally intended and the
unpredictability of license approval. On the functioning of the mailing
list, as Simon pointed out the Board was in agreement that this was a
problem and approved the email that was sent.

There are probably differences of opinion within the Board (at least I
perceive Simon and I to have differences of opinion) on whether the
second point is actually something that needs to be fixed. The voices
who are complaining about the second issue that immediately come to my
mind are lawyers, and I agree with them. I suspect we are used to
working in a world where we have statutes and regulations and
precedential case law, so we are unhappy when the answer is only
"because we say so." I also think that the OSI will be significantly
harmed, perhaps existentially, if it is perceived as acting on whims
rather than demonstrating leadership through rational explanation and

But I hope to ease your concern that I am a rigid rule follower and can
be gamed that way. First, even if I could be gamed or I have nefarious
intent, the License Review Committee is four people and the Board is
eleven people. I surely can't act unilaterally. Second, I'm not a rigid
rule follower, although I am someone who believes that decisions should
be consistent and backed up with rationale more compelling than "because
we say so." For example, I direct your attention to (brought to my
attention by Kyle Mitchell) the OSI-approved  Reciprocal Public
License.[^1] This license says "Regarding deployment, under the RPL your
changes, bug fixes, extensions, etc. must be made available to the open
source community at large when you Deploy in any form -- either
internally or to an outside party. Once you start running the software
you have to start sharing the software." How do you reconcile that with
the current position, and a supposed basis for refusing a license, that
there must be freedom to run software? "Because we say so" works, but I
think people would be justified in their unhappiness if there is no
explanation (which might be "oops, that one slipped through!")

So, stay tuned on how the rigor of the decision-making process plays out
in the future.

I understand that people on this list may be skeptical of my commitment
to software freedom and/or open source software, and for you time will
tell. That's fine with me. I do hope, though, that there is room for
healthy disagreement about what exactly "software freedom" means. We
have a recent challenge to the scope of the concept, which is whether it
extends to data portability (and if you want to talk about that, lets
start a new thread). I do hope that simply having a different opinion on
the meaning of software freedom at the fringes doesn't mean that one has
become captive to anti-freedom forces.

Pam Chestek

[^1]: https://opensource.org/licenses/RPL-1.5

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