Over the weekend, Bruce Perens, who was one of the original founders of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) but now currently serves as vice president of developer relations and policy for SourceLabs, publicly expressed his dismay over the rejection of an application he filed to become a member of a newly formed OSI committee for dealing with the problem of open source license proliferation. In open source circles, the OSI is the consortium whose imprimatur must be applied to a software license before that license can be widely recognized as an open source license. License proliferation has dogged the open source community because of how the dissimilar licensing language found in the 57 different open source licenses can prevent the free sharing of code between many open source projects. In addition to co-founding the Open Source Initiative with Eric Raymond, Perens was instrumental in drafting the official definition of open source -- otherwise known as the Open Source Definition or OSD. The OSI uses the OSD as a litmus test for whether or not a newly proposed license qualifies as an open source license or not. A copy of Perens' public statement which was distributed to the OSI's license-discuss mailing list appears below. Dating back to the public laundering of a disagreement between Perens and Raymond, Perens has not been involved with the OSI for some time now.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Perens told me that "even [OSI] board member Danese Cooper told me she thought I should have been on the committee." In a phone interview today, Cooper acknowledged that she and Perens had a discussion two weeks ago at LinuxWorld in San Francisco and said that she did intimate to Perens that if she was the committee chairperson, she might very well have put him on the panel. However, Cooper also said she responded to Perens with the caveat that she had not yet discussed the matter with committee chair Laura Majerus who had much more intimate knowledge of who the applicants were and how the selections were being made. According to Cooper, the OSI Board of Directors has been careful not to interfere with Majerus' chairmanship of the committee.
Late today, I caught up with Majerus by phone and, although she clearly acknowledged that "Perens has made a substantial contribution to the open source community and to the OSI," she justified the application denial saying that she needed to keep the committee to a manageable size and that she wanted fair representation from the many sectors that needed to be represented including government, corporate, lawyers, non-lawyers, and women. However, when pressed for what sector she felt Perens fit into and who in that sector was better qualified, Majerus was coy, only saying that she believed she picked the best candidates. "We received a lot of applications and I believe the committee now consists of the most qualified people." Majerus said. "But we very much value Bruce's contributions and opinions and, since the process is open and the minutes from the meetings are published, we hope Bruce will contribute by giving his feedback."
Here's a copy of Perens' letter:
From: Bruce Perens <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Aug 21, 2005 11:46 AM
Subject: Bruce Perens rejected from license-proliferation committee.
I've tried diplomatic approaches to this for some months, and have been met with something between resistance and naivete. So, it's time to tell you about it.
Some time ago, I applied to be on the license proliferation committee. I eventually got a form letter from Laura Majerus saying that they had too many qualified people. When addressed through Mike Tiemann, Laura simply repeated her previous mantra.
Most of you will realize that I am uniquely qualified as the main author of the guidelines that OSI now seeks to interpret, and someone who has assisted many businesses and legal professionals in working within those guidelines since then. Two people with experience similar to mine but less in duration were admitted to the committee. There are a few legal professionals admitted. All others admitted are extremely worthy individuals, and have been working very hard at this, but I can't really say they are more experienced.
I've discussed this with a number of OSI insiders and professionals who are close to the problem. All said the same thing: having offered, you never should have been rejected.
And thus, I really have to question the process.