Subject: Re: Bruce Perens rejected from license-proliferation committee.
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 21 Aug 2005 21:55:09 -0700

Russell Nelson <> writes:

> Bruce Perens writes:
>  > I agree that we need to fix the problem that OSI doesn't have any
>  > sort of representative process. I'm disappointed that in 6 and a
>  > half years that I haven't been on the OSI board this hasn't been
>  > addressed.
> It's very short.  You should read it.  I discovered something very
> interesting in it: it doesn't matter who writes the law, as long as
> the law treats everyone equally.  It is when the law treats some
> people unfairly that those people seek influence over law-makers.
> Do you feel treated unfairly?  Does OSI fail to balance your interests
> and concerns with those of others?  Have we made mistakes that we
> didn't rectify?  Do we reflect a bias against the range of opinions
> you feel you would represent if you were on the committee?
> Rather than judging the process, you should judge the result.  Since
> there are no results yet, you have nothing to say anything about.

This seems to miss the point.  The OSI is not the law.  It is
"dedicated to managing and promoting the Open Source Definition for
the good of the community."  In order for this to work, the OSI must
express the will of the community, and it also, as a separate
requirement, must appear to express the will of the community.

Several years ago I agitated strongly about the lack of any semblance
of democracy or transparency in the OSI.  I stopped when I realized
that the OSI didn't really matter.  Since then the OSI has some to
matter somewhat more--e.g., looks to it to ratify
licenses.  But it still doesn't matter very much.  And it is also
still completely undemocratic and only slightly more transparent (the
increase in transparency is thanks entirely to Russ's efforts to
increase communication from the board).  These are strange, indeed
nearly incomprehensible, characteristics for an organization which
claims to represent the community (compare to the FSF, for example,
which makes no claim to represent anybody except itself).

The OSI also completely lacks any formal mechanism for correcting
errors.  Thus the argument that one should judge the results makes no
sense; by the time there are results, it is too late.

Personally I think the OSI should drop any claims about representing
the community, and instead describe itself as a group of self-selected
experts who periodically issue opinions about open source licensing--
i.e., more or less the same as any NGO.  I think that would be more
honest and more helpful.

I also think it's silly to not take advantage of the advice that
somebody like Bruce has to offer--after all, he's been around for a
while, and he wrote the first version of the OSD, which is the
founding document of the OSI.  But, as I alluded to above, I've come
to understand that most people who care seriously about OSI
pronouncements don't really understand how the open source world
really works in practice, or are just free software wonks like me.  So
it's hard for me to get too worked up over this.


(Full disclosure: I also applied to be on the license-proliferation
committee.  After all, I've been arguing against license proliferation
here and elsewhere for many years.  I was also rejected.  But I think
the people who are on the committee are perfectly sensible, and I
don't have any particular complaints.)