[License-discuss] OSI as guarantor for "or later" *GPL clauses

Roland Turner roland at rolandturner.com
Thu Oct 28 03:20:37 UTC 2021

On 28/10/21 06:21, Enrico Zini wrote:

> On Wed, Oct 27, 2021 at 06:15:42PM -0400, Andrew DeMarsh wrote:
> > In truth I'm not even really sure where you would send this kind of request
> > to the OSI other than maybe it's Legal representative.
> Yes, quite. I tried that first, and they told me to write here.

The board will quite properly want to see consensus before they make a 
policy change, and presumably see it as the proponent's (i.e. your) 
burden to foster that consensus. That said, there doesn't appear to be a 
policy choice for the board to make here. A licensor is perfectly free 
to grant permission under Gnu GPL v{x}, or any later version published 
by the FSF, so long as the OSI has added it to its approved license list 
as at the date on which the licensee exercises that right.

It is of course courteous to first enquire whether OSI might object, as 
you have done. The only objection that I can see is that the existence 
of a body of software licensed under these terms might become an 
improper consideration in determining whether to approve a future 
version of the Gnu GPL. There appear to be two important cases:

  * There will be pressure to decline an otherwise acceptable license
    because of the existence of some software licensed under these
    terms. This seems a most unlikely concern as, if there turned out to
    be a way to put the OSI in a situation where this was a real issue,
    the same might be done with respect to any license under
    consideration, thereby crippling OSI. I can't say that this is
    impossible, but it seems rather unlikely.
  * More likely, there might be pressure to approve an otherwise
    unacceptable license because of the existence of an important body
    of existing software under these terms. This, again, seems a little
    unlikely. We might speculate about whether OSI would approve GPL at
    all if it appeared as the first ever copyleft license today, and
    even to wonder whether its acceptance under DFSG and therefore OSD
    was a result of the important body of software that existed under
    GPL at the time, but (a) I'd suggest that it's unlikely that OSI
    would make such a decision on that basis today, and (b) in any event
    this is merely a concrete example of the larger problem (pressure to
    approve an otherwise unacceptable license because of the existence
    of an important body of software licensed under it). It doesn't seem
    like a reason for objecting to conditioning a license in the way
    that you propose.

As for drafting language, that is something that you should take up with 
counsel with copyright expertise and — ideally — open source experience. 
OSI does not provide legal advice.

- Roland

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