[PROPOSAL] Open Source certification

Dean Brettle dean at brettle.com
Sat Apr 10 21:31:58 UTC 1999

[added the OSI board to the CCs]

Will Lowe wrote:
> Obviously we can't write an OSD v.2 that includes a clause about
> _everything_ that anybody might ever write into a license.  I think that
> the only reason the GPL stands up under so much debate is because it's
> been around for a while and we've got a general consensus about how we
> think the wording should be interpreted.  Even then,  we had big problems
> e.g. with Kde and Debian.
> How do we make what we mean by Free Software clear to people _before_ we
> have to argue about it?  At the moment,  it often seems to me that neither
> side is completely sure _what_ the topic of the argument is about.

I think that Free Software will probably always mean different things to
different people and as a result we will continue to argue about it.  I
also think such discussions are generally healthy.  The idea behind the
Open Source(TM) brand, at least as I understand it, is to indentify
software/licenses which the free software community considers free. 
Given the divisions within that community, OSI chose to use the
community-developed DFSG as the basis for deciding what gets the Open
Source(TM) mark.  This seems very reasonable to me.  

Of course, whether a particular license meets the DFSG/OSD is often a
judgement call, but I consider the current OSI board quite qualified to
acts as judges/jury in this context.  However, as things currently
stand, they also act as consultants to the organizations seeking
branding.  Although they are certainly qualified to do that as well,
this makes it harder for them to be impartial judges.  As an example of
this, consider the "affected code" language in the Apple license.  As
used in the license, it is at least somewhat unclear what it means. 
ESR's interpretation seems to be based on his consultations with Apple
in addition to what the license actually says.  His role as consultant,
IMHO, affected his role as judge.

The solution to this seems pretty obvious.  An OSI board member should
recuse himself from judging a license which he has consulted on. 
Moreover, the proposed license should be discussed publicly so that the
judging board members can hear why some people don't think it meets the
OSD and why others think it does (a la MPL/NPL).  If the parties can't
reach an agreement, the judging members decide whether or not it gets
the mark.

This obvious analogy could be extended to allow the community to change
the OSD if they think some non-free licenses are being approved.  FWIW,
I don't think the ability to "impeach" board members would be needed. 
If OSI blatantly ignores the community developed OSD (instead of just
misinterpreting it), they would fall from grace and the brand would
eventually become meaningless.

Just my .02,

-- Dean

|    Dean Brettle Computer Consulting     http://www.brettle.com/    |
|      Contract development and support of software and systems      |

More information about the Spi-general mailing list