TGPPL, deterring licence proliferation by withholding the stamp of OSD-conformance (was: recent submissions merit no action)

Zooko O'Whielacronx zooko at
Wed Jan 21 17:19:29 UTC 2009

Bruce Perens wrote that my Request for Approval of the Transitive  
Grace Period Public Licence as OSD-compliant "may well be considered  

My Request For Approval is not frivolous.  I believe that the  
Transitive Grace Period Public Licence could turn out to be important  
-- it is a novel mechanism for cooperation which has the potential to  
greatly foment creative work.  Other people think it is a good idea,  

My company,, has released all of the software that runs  
our business under the Transitive Grace Period Public Licence, dual- 
licensed with the GPL.  We do not do such things frivolously. says:

"The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a California public benefit  
corporation, with 501(c)3 tax-exempt status, founded in 1998.
The OSI are the stewards of the Open Source Definition (OSD) and the  
community-recognized body for reviewing and approving licenses as OSD- 

This is the social contract to which the larger open source community  
understands OSI to be committed: to inform the community about  
whether a licence does or does not conform to the Open Source  
Definition.  When I announce the availability of software on  
community sites such as SourceForge, Freshmeat, the Python Package  
Index, or Launchpad, the site asks me if the licence is certified by  
OSI to be OSD-conformant.  Likewise, people who are considering using  
my software sometimes ask me personally if the licences are certified  
by OSI.  They ask this because they want to know whether the licence  
is open source or not, and they rely on the OSI to tell them.

Obviously the OSI should not entertain frivolous or malicious  
Requests For Approval, but it appears that in your concern about  
licence proliferation you have started to use your power of  
withholding certification of OSD-conformance as a general purpose  
tool to deter the use of licences that you don't like.  This is wrong.

There are a few options available to OSI which are consistent with  
the community's recognition of OSI:

1.  Announce that the OSI approval process is no longer merely  
determining whether a licence conforms to the OSD, but also whether  
the licence is sufficiently useful to be recommended to the  
community.  Send out a press release explaining what the new rules  
are, update the process documentation, and change the "about" page,  
quoted above, which in this case would no longer be correct.

2.  Forget about deterring licence proliferation.  Let OSI focus  
solely on "reviewing and approvling licences as OSD-conformant", and  
hope that other forces will prevent licence proliferation from  
growing out of control and strangling open source cooperation.

3.  Separately indicate whether the OSI finds a licence to be OSD- 
conformant and whether it advises the use of that licence.  This is  
as Russell Nelson has suggested in "restarting License (anti-) 
Proliferation" [1].  In this scheme, the OSI would maintain two lists  
of licences: "recommended" and "conformant".  In my opinion this is  
the best option of the three.

In the meantime, please approve the Transitive Grace Period Public  
Licence as OSD-conformant without further unnecessary delay.  Delays  
in this process could have a negative impact on myself or on my  
company.  I understand that many or all of us are working pro bono,  
in the public interest, and do not get paid to work on this full- 
time, so I planned for a certain amount of unavoidable delay, but I  
must confess that I am distressed to discover that approval of the  
licence has been delayed for no good reason.

I entered into this process based on my understanding of the OSI's  
role in our community and of the documented process for licence  
review.  I have executed my part of the process in good faith,  
following to the best of my ability the public documentation, and I  
expect to be addressed respectfully and for the OSI to fulfill its  
side of the process in good faith.


Zooko Wilcox-O'Hearn

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