[OSM-legal-talk] Future license upgrades, the heart of the matter
frederik at remote.org
Tue Jan 27 00:41:06 GMT 2009
thinking about the new license and how things have changed in the
past few months, I have come to the conclusion that we are seeing a
dramatic shift in focus.
In the beginning, we were very much discussing about share-alike versus
PD, and about details and use cases and so on, all under the assumption
that we have to iron out the glitches before we can make the transition.
Ironing out the glitches seemed very difficult because those who saw the
glitches were mostly not the same people who were talking to the
lawyers, and the lawyers could not be bothered to keep up a presence on
this mailing list because it would have cost too much time.
We had barely ever discussed the possibility of license upgrades; early
drafts did have an "this license or later" clause but most of us
probably thought "well, we'll get to that when we've cleaned up the rest".
Now the whole issue has been turned around. We will be asked to accept a
license that is not perfect, that probably has many open questions
unanswered, and that has some update clauses so it can be changed
without having to go through the whole relicensing process again.
This "we'll-make-it-up-as-we-go" process is very unusual for legal
documents but it is very close to what OSM is doing in most other
departments most of the time. (It would, by the way, be even more
OSM-like if we had not bothered to talk to lawyers at all - since OSM is
often said not to give a damn for professional opinion, and to do well
in not doing so.)
This new angle suddenly makes the upgrade clauses and/or upgrade
mechanism the most important bit of the new license. Everything else
pales into insignificance - we can spend ages finding the right balance
on one issue or the other, it can all be changed tomorrow, or the day
after that, by some other group of people, without asking us. Thus, the
*only* questions that have any significance now are:
* WHAT changes can be made to the license once it is accepted;
* WHO can make these changes (whom do we trust to make them); and
* HOW will such changes become vetted by the community, if at all.
These are the decisions that can absolutely not be postponed until after
the license is accepted; while everything else can.
The three are somewhat interdependent in the sense that satisfactorily
solving at least one might obsolete the others. If we make very strict
rules about what can be changed (and what must remain the same), then
even a non-trustworthy entity could be allowed to make them because we
have made sure that the license cannot be disfigured. If, on the other
hand, we have a very trustworthy entity then we can simply, well, trust
them. And if we have neither, then we can still say that any change must
be accepted by a certain quorum of people after a certain period of
discussion and so on (and we would also have to also say that a change
*must* be made if a certain quorum demand it).
I think I'm prepared to go along with the "we make the license up as we
go" approach but the above three questions *must* definitely be answered
fully, adequately, and clearly, in the license, or else it runs a high
risk of being rejected by mappers as a sell-out.
The somewhat dangerous thing is that until now, we have spent very
little time on discussing these items. Whatever comes out of the lawyer
lab in this respect will thus have had next to zero community input. I'm
eager to see what they have come up with and I, and probably anyone
else, will certainly read the relevant section(s) with utmost scrutiny.
Frederik Ramm ## eMail frederik at remote.org ## N49°00'09" E008°23'33"
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