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

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Sat Jun 1 01:59:24 UTC 2019

On Fri, May 31, 2019 at 7:47 PM Luis Villa <luis at lu.is> wrote:

Imagine trying to understand US constitutional law if all you had were
> clerk's notes of the US Supreme Court's lunch discussions - that's roughly
> what being told "you can understand the OSD by reading the mailing list
> archives" is.[1] A set of rules that is literally incomprehensible, because
> the associated record-keeping is terrible, is hardly worth being called a
> set of rules.[2]

As you know, that is simply the way that common-law legal systems work.
Although there are many areas of the law that are now codified, there are
still many where THE LAW is only to be found by looking into a huge mass of
decisions to try to find the rationes decidendi -- and the record-keeping
is far from ideal, especially in older cases and ones decided by lower
courts.  Insofar as the OSI Board is like a court at all (in many ways it
is more like a deliberative assembly), it is both a court of first instance
and of final appeal, except for the appeal to public opinion ("The Supreme
Court follows the election returns." --Finley Peter Dunne).  Furthermore,
there is no LexisNexis and Westlaw working away to keep everything as
well-sorted and well-explained (and very expensive) as may be.

On Fri, May 31, 2019 at 8:41 PM Heather Meeker <heatherjmeeker at gmail.com>

+1 on all of this. The purpose of "guarantees software freedom" is either
> (1) to reserve to OSI unfettered discretion, which removes all transparency
> from the approval process, or (2) to articulate some kind of meaningful
> condition, in which case it fails due to vagueness. If (1), please be
> candid that the standards are arbitrary and allow the community to judge
> the legitimacy of OSI's authority on that basis.  If (2), please fix it.

That is most certainly a false dilemma: absolute discretion vs. what A. P.
Herbert called "devoted and mechanical adhesion to precedent".  People who
decide things, whether we call them judges, managers, or ISO registration
authorities, operate using a body of practice which is neither rigidly
codified nor wide open.

John Cowan          http://vrici.lojban.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
You escaped them by the will-death and the Way of the Black Wheel.
I could not.  --Great-Souled Sam
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