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Re: OASIS -- Our Membership and their IP Policy?

Mark Johnson <mrj@debian.org> writes:


> >I'm asking because of Lawrence Rosen's ``A Call to Action in
> >OASIS'', which I saw in today's LWN [1].  Apparently OASIS is
> >adopting a new intellectual-property policy that would allow
> >standards based on patent-encumbered technology, which would be a
> >bad thing for the open-source community in general, and Debian in
> >particular.
> Yes, I'd been working from within OASIS to address the issues with the new 
> IPR policy, but never got any traction.
> I also requested legal review by posting to debian-legal last November,
> http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2004/11/msg00142.html
> but didn't receive any feedback.
> >There are a lot of big names [2] at the end of the post, not
> >including our DPL.
> I've asked that my name be added to the list{1} as well, but nothing has 
> happened.
> I honestly have no idea when or how the solicitation for signatures went 
> out.
> I know Bruce Perens is addressing this issue now, but I'n not sure what the 
> status is.
> No doubt we will discuss this in full when it comes time to renew Debian's 
> OASIS membership. We may decide to bow out, or we could stay in & work to 
> directly effect change. For example, I'd be willing to run for a position 
> on the OASIS Board of Directors the next time there is an election.


Speaking as an outsider (I'm just a Debian user, not a Debian developer)
but as someone who was, until very recently, an individual OASIS member,
here are some opinions, for what they're worth.

If Debian as an organization is opposed to the OASIS IPR policy, then
I'd like to respectfully suggest that maybe the best way to make a clear
statement about that is to publicly resign its OASIS membership.

That would send out a statement similar to the statement that Debian
made when it publicly stated it would not impelement any standard
approved by the IETF MARID group as long at it was encumbered by patents.

And as far as standards that closely relate to free software and uses
and concerns of the free-sofware community, I personally would like to
see Debian and other free-software organizations pushing to have
standards developed outside of industry consortia such as OASIS.

I am writing that as someone who was a member of the DocBook TC at OASIS
for several years, and who joined OASIS for the sole purpose of
participating in development of DocBook as a voting member of the TC.

I say "was" because, this year, when my deadline for paying my annual
individual membership dues (US$250) came up, I simply neglected to pay
them. Not just because of the IPR policy, but also because I had spent
some time trying to think of what value I thought that involvement with
OASIS was bringing to DocBook, and had come to the conclusion that it
was bringing no value at all, at least as far as I could see.

In fact, there are some ways in which association with OASIS has been a
liability for DocBook. For example, deficiencies in the system
(some propietary application called "Kavi") that OASIS chose for
managing their website actually made it impossible, for a period of
several months, for the DocBook TC to publish a new committee-approved
version of DocBook via the OASIS website. They did nothing at all about
it for many months.

Actually, OASIS did do one thing: They unilaterally issued a new policy
stating that all TCs were now *required* to host all their content on
the OASIS web server. Despite the problems that had been reported, and
despite the fact that they had done nothing to correct them.

Anyway, I don't personally like to reward imcompetence. Considering it
as a client-vendor relationship, I couldn't imagine paying $250 a year
to a vendor who -- along with not being able to provide me with anything
valueable -- had completely ignored repeated requests to make changes to
a part of its system that, despite the fact that they had been told were
unusable, they were *requiring* me to use.

And then came their unilateral decision about the IPR policy...

By the way, about that -- despite the fact that OASIS has a mechanism
for giving its entire membership an opportunity to vote on anything it
wants its membership to vote on, it never gave its membership an
opportunity to vote on the new IPR policy.

But even if OASIS were perfect and didn't have an IPR policy that was as
odds with the Debian Social Contract, it seems to me that maybe it
doesn't make much sense for Debian or any other free-software group to
be involved in OASIS or in any other organization that requires
financial contributions in order to participate in development of an
open standard.

Compare OASIS to the IETF, for example. The IETF, for the last
(relatively) gazillion years, has somehow managed to produce standards
(RFCs) without requiring any membership dues -- in fact without having
any permanent "membership" -- or without much infrastructure at all.
Interested people just get together, come up with draft standards, and
send them out for review an comment by anybody who cares to take the
time to read and comment on them. Real standards, with implementations.
And there are few stamps of approval (in my world at least) that carry
more weight than being able to say that something is "RFC compliant".

Also, consider the fact the membership in OASIS cannnot, practically,
be called "open" at all. The US$250 annual membership fee -- as
inexpensive as it may seem relative to what, say, the W3C charges for
membership -- is prohibitively expensive for many individuals and
organizations. Especially for individuals in non-rich countries (that
is, most of the world).

Participation in development of open standards should not require
financial contributions to some standards body. Standards should be
driven by the people who have the most interest and enthusiasm and
investment in time in them (like the IETF). If there are any additional
criteria involvement, it should just be based on demonstrated knowledge
and skills (as with the process for becoming a Debian developer).

If we don't currently have organizations that let us participate and
help develop standards that wey, maybe it's time we started creating


> {1} http://perens.com/Articles/OASIS.html
> >
> >   Claire
> >
> >[1] http://lwn.net/Articles/124548/
> >
> >[2] Lawrence Rosen, Bruce Perens, Richard Stallman, Lawrence
> >    Lessig, Eben Moglen, Marten Mickos, John Weathersby, John
> >    Terpstra, Tim O'Reilly, Tony Stanco, Don Marti, Michael
> >    Tiemann, Andrew Aitken, Karen Copenhaver, Doug Levin, Dan
> >    Ravicher, Larry Augustin, Mitchell Kapor, Russell Nelson,
> >    Guido van Rossum, Daniel Quinlan, Murugan Pal, Stuart Cohen,
> >    Danese Cooper, Eric Raymond, Mark Webbink, Ken Coar, Doc
> >    Searls, Brian Behlendorf.
> >

Michael Smith
http://logopoeia.com/  http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/au/890

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