For Approval: Transitive Grace Period Public Licence, v1.0

John Cowan cowan at
Wed Feb 18 18:14:20 UTC 2009

Russ Nelson scripsit:

> What happens when Microsoft decides that the MS-HUGELY-PROPRIETARY
> license is OSD-compliant?

Well, okay, let's talk (I hope for the last time) about John Cowan,
Russ Nelson and the OSI, Microsoft, and a few licenses.  I proposed that
the MS-PL and MS-CL were OSD-compliant and ought to become OSI Approved.
I presented some arguments I considered compelling for OSD-compliance.
They were not contradicted then or later.

You then, on process and copyright grounds, asked me to withdraw the
application and I did so.  The licenses were then in my view OSD-compliant
but not OSI Approved.  I said so publicly in several places, including
Groklaw, Slashdot, and my own blog.

Much later, some folks from Microsoft got wind of all this and asked for
OSI approval.  They got it, after the full name of the MS-PL was changed.
All good.  Everyone happy, except the fanatics who believe that saying
anything positive about anything Microsoft is proof of corruption.

> I propose that the basis on which someone should rely on assertion of
> OSD compliance is: "Is the organization the Open Source Initiative?"
> If not, then you shouldn't believe the claim of OSD compliance.

That's as much as to say: before the board acted, John Cowan shouldn't
have been believed about the MS-PL and the MS-CL, whereas after
the board action the same uncontroverted arguments about identical
texts were somehow worthy of belief.  Who died and appointed you God?
(Eric Raymond, perhaps?)

If EvilMicroSnortCo claims that their Hugely Proprietary License
("We get all rights, you get no rights, period") is OSD-compliant, we
shouldn't listen.  But if the OSI board (drunk, or bribed, or suffering
from collective temporary insanity) certifies the HPL as OSI Approved,
we'd have to accept that -- but we wouldn't accept the claim that it
was OSD-compliant when we can plainly see it's not.

The claim "This license is OSD-compliant" is not like the claim "This
is an Intel chip", where (by social agreement) Intel gets to be the
authority.  It's much more like the claim "This is an Intel-compatible
chip", where people present their evidence and reasoning and eventually a
consensus is formed.  Such claims *can* be politicized or commercialized,
but to claim that they *have* to be is postmodernism run wild, like the
notion that the law of gravity is a mere social convention.  (Tell that
to Art Linkletter's daughter!)

> If even our FRIENDS don't think we have any authority, it's time to
> declare victory and go home.

I never thought the OSI had any authority.  What it has is a logo,
a trademark, and a reputation for neutrality and objectivity, like
Underwriters Laboratories.  Erode the last, and the other two aren't
worth much.

What OSI has done is basically to approve licenses.  Due to concerns about
license proliferation, you basically don't want to do that any more,
except for the minor case of new versions of old licenses.  The OSI
reinvention is hopelessly stalled out.  Perhaps it is indeed time to
go home.

John Cowan  cowan at
[P]olice in many lands are now complaining that local arrestees are insisting
on having their Miranda rights read to them, just like perps in American TV
cop shows.  When it's explained to them that they are in a different country,
where those rights do not exist, they become outraged.  --Neal Stephenson

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