Status: Active
Bottom liner: Ben Nickolls
How to get involved: Send an email to Richard Littauer, who will connect you with Ben Nickolls; or just tweet @benjam


To create a space to tackle some of the issues around the emergence of ‘ethical’ licences and the backlash that organisations like the OSI receive regard their licence review processes.


The end goal here is for Ben to present to OSI with a thought-out and practical proposal for a process that encompasses the requirements we identified together, that demonstrates a willingness for the OSI to engage with those who question the relevance of the open source definition with respect to ethical licences.

Ben’s intent is to create a working group (which can consist of members and non-members) within the OSI so that we can engage with the wider organisation and propose a process that is open, inclusive and respectful of the diverse views and experiences of stakeholders within the organisation. Since Sustain the OSI have been though their 2020 board election process (congrats to those who were elected!) and now might be the time to bring this conversation to the OSI.

Reports and documents

Ben: In the morning, at Sustain, we spent some time doing a landscape review of issues in this domain, ranging from the OSI being more transparent about the norms the organisation is trying to maintain to platforms being more forward about the value of choosing any licence and explicitly calling out to maintainers of projects with no licence to include one. I photographed and commented on the notes I took on the day here:

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In the afternoon we picked up on one of the issues we’d discussed in the morning: whether organisations like the OSI should create a process for accepting annotations and even amendments to the open source definition, even if that process is never enacted. Again I photographed and annotated the clipboard notes I took while facilitating, Luis Villa also took notes in google docs:

Flipchart notes Luis Villa’s notes

In my own opinion I think we got to a pretty good set of conditions that a process should support, and for me this is enough to start creating a process that supports these requirements.

How to get involved

Ben: Just to reiterate, there is zero expectation of participation on any of you. If you have any time to dedicate to this group I will be eternally grateful, but I am more than happy (and able) to take this forward myself. You’ve already provided a lot of valuable thoughts and feedback for me and I am thankful for it.

That said my immediate ask —for those of you who can— is to please review the above documents and add your own takes. Notes are always interpretive and I make no claims to have documented the conversations we had back in January. If you’d like to reply with your own thoughts directly to this email, expand on the google doc linked above or — as I have — add comments directly to the photographs then please do. I will pick up any aggregation tasks and will re-summarise for the rest of the group.

Get in touch with me if you’re interested in helping!