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

Pamela Chestek pamela.chestek at opensource.org
Fri May 24 14:50:56 UTC 2019

The directors of the board of the Open Source Initiative recognize the
process for discussion and review of new licenses proposed for approval
by the organization can use improvement and would benefit from
evolution. In particular, it does not appear as though all points of
view on open source licensing are represented in the discussion here. To
address this situation we have created a Board Committee for license
approval to evaluate responses on-list, appointed more moderators, and
will devise a new moderation strategy.

We anticipate that the effort to improve the quality of discussion on
the license lists will be an iterative process. This email describes our
first step, which is to approach the community and elicit feedback on
this approach. We anticipate further steps including a review of tools,
but we’re not yet at that stage.

License review vs. License discuss lists

License-review at lists.opensource.org is the email address for submitting
a license for which you seek OSI approval following the process at
https://opensource.org/approval. The list is open to the public, so
anyone can give their opinion about a license. The OSI License Committee
considers the viewpoints expressed on the license-review list in making
its license approval recommendation to the OSI Board. Since the purpose
of the list is to inform the Committee and the Board, discussion of
substantive issues off-list is not recommended. If a license submitter
elects to respond to a substantive question submitted to them off-list,
the submitter is encouraged to copy the license-review list also on
their response after redacting the identity of the person sending the

License-discuss at lists.opensource.org is for general questions about open
source licenses and for licenses in early stage development. The list is
open to the public and anyone can give feedback. A moderator may decide
that a license submitted to license-review isn’t sufficiently developed
and will move it to license-discuss for additional work. We recommend
that you carry out your license development process on a publicly
viewable venue (preferably one where collaboration is also possible) and
regularly seek views on license-discuss. Note that agreement on
license-discuss does not guarantee agreement on license-review, as the
audiences differ.

The board recognizes that the license-review mailing list would benefit
from further, more concerted moderation, both to ensure appropriate
conversation and to maintain the pace of discussions. This more
concerted process will evolve in the following steps:

  * We will develop rules to encourage wider participation. We perceive
    that some are discouraged from participating because of offensive
    tone, frequency, or repetitiveness of messages. We will develop
    moderation standards to address these hurdles.
  * A moderator will also advance the conversation, by following up with
    the license steward on unanswered questions and ensuring that all
    topics of interest have been fully fleshed out.
  * We will assure observance of the Code of Conduct for the mailing
    lists, available at: https://opensource.org/codeofconduct/licensing.

_Changes to the Website_
We have also made a minor change to the language describing the license
review process on https://opensource.org/approval. The page formerly
said “Approve, if (a) there is sufficient consensus emerging from
community discussion that approval is justified, and (b) the OSI
determines that the license conforms to the Open Source Definition and
guarantees software freedom." The page now says “Approve if, after
taking into consideration community discussion, the OSI determines that
the license conforms to the Open Source Definition and guarantees
software freedom.”

We have also clarified the timing of the review decision.

_License Review Committee_
The License Review Committee is an OSI Board committee made up of the
following board members, as of May 2019:

Pamela Chestek, chair, pamela.chestek at opensource.org
Elana Hashman, elana.hashman at opensource.org
Chris Lamb, chris.lamb at opensource.org
Simon Phipps, webmink at opensource.org

The License Review Committee will summarize and report the
license-review discussions to the Board for the Board’s approval or
disapproval of a proposed license. Members of the Committee also serve
as moderators for the two mailing lists.

_What We’re Asking_
Let us know what you think of these changes.


Pamela Chestek
Chair, License Review Committee
Open Source Initiative

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