[License-discuss] "Fairness" vs. mission objectives

Nicholas Matthew Neft Weinstock nweinsto at qti.qualcomm.com
Mon Feb 24 18:19:05 UTC 2020

I’m reading Eric’s proposal and John’s response as addressing slightly different things.

OSI publishes the Open Source Definition, and maintains a list of OSI-Approved Licenses.

I don’t think there is any dispute that OSI can use whatever criteria it wants to add licenses to the list of OSI-Approved Licenses.

It seems like Eric is saying that there should be a fair, consistent, transparent, neutral process for evaluating what licenses should be added to the list or removed from it.  I think that is completely reasonable.  Right now the OSD is published; it seems like the idea of a more formal review process, as well as clearly enumerating any other factors, makes sense.

However, part of John’s objection seems to be the possibility that OSI is declaring these licenses are not “Open Source” at all.

I agree, that seems a step too far.  The term “Open Source” was around and used to describe some licenses before OSI and the OSD existed.  Purely chronologically, it doesn’t seem right for OSI to try to assert that these licenses aren’t “Open Source” when they were “Open Source” first.  Trying to do so would suggest that the criteria in the OSD, or how they are being applied today, is inconsistent with the original understanding of “Open Source.”

I do recognize John’s concern doesn’t go away entirely even if this is focused on the list of OSI-Approved Licenses.  I have seen contracts that reference the use of open source software based on the OSI-Approved Licenses, which could break as John describes.  And even if contracts reference the Open Source Definition rather than the list of OSI-Approved Licenses, revoking a place on the list of OSI-Approved Licenses could be viewed the same way.  However, there have always been licenses that call themselves “Open Source” but have never been submitted to OSI for consideration, or were rejected for reasons other than the 10 clauses in the OSD (such as anti-proliferation), so these contracts have always had that risk.

-Nicholas Weinstock

From: License-discuss <license-discuss-bounces at lists.opensource.org> On Behalf Of John Cowan
Sent: Monday, February 24, 2020 9:03 AM
To: license-discuss at lists.opensource.org
Subject: Re: [License-discuss] "Fairness" vs. mission objectives

On Mon, Feb 24, 2020 at 11:08 AM Eric S. Raymond <esr at thyrsus.com<mailto:esr at thyrsus.com>> wrote:

The analogy [with UL] is exact.

Not quite.  If we found out that the license did not meet the OSD's requirements, it would indeed be our duty to decertify it.  However, goals like "minimize license proliferation" are less clear-cut.   Saying that a license should not have been certified because it is redundant to some other license does not entail that it should be decertified now.

This is not quite stare decisis, which is the rule that (where possible) similar cases should be decided similarly: it is a matter of not disturbing existing relationships.  There are now many forges and archives that accept code under any OSI-certified license.  They should not have to purge code under a decertified license without very good cause indeed.

(another email)

denying the use of open-source code

As this discussion has repeatedly noted, the use of the code is not *denied*.  It is simply made more embarrassing.  The issues are with the effects on third parties.

The United States is in no way founded upon the Christian religion
        -- George Washington & John Adams, in a diplomatic message to Malta.

An ambassador is an honest man who is sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.  --Henry Wotton

John Cowan          http://vrici.lojban.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org<mailto:cowan at ccil.org>
"The serene chaos that is Courage, and the phenomenon of Unopened
Consciousness have been known to the Great World eons longer than Extaboulism."
"Why is that?" the woman inquired.
"Because I just made that word up", the Master said wisely.
        --Kehlog Albran, The Profit

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