My concerns about GPLv3 process

simo simo.sorce at
Mon Jan 30 20:05:29 UTC 2006

On Mon, 2006-01-30 at 19:21 +0000, MJ Ray wrote:

> Try it out??? That web site tool tells me that my browser is
> not supported, even though it's a recent Gecko-based one. Not
> that it's easy to read the badly-CSS'd page anyway. (The message
> has changed since I last looked to say "Loading comments. If
> you're still reading this, it's a strong indication that we do
> not properly support your browser yet. You may need to _email
> your comments_ instead, or try another recent Gecko-based
> browser. You can, however, _browse comments_ on any browser.")

I understand your concerns, but I know the people who made the software
are working hard to extend the support to other browsers. I have been
told so by them in person. There are still some bugs with Firefox too
and I see they are addressing them one after one.

But the tool is very powerful and, more important, useful and usable.
I think it is a good compromise, Firefox is free software and is also
available on multiple platforms, I do  not think the requirement is so
bad anyway.

> The large political caucus structure is described in
> - mere serfs only
> make comments to the appointed Discussion Committees who then
> decide what to present to the Foundation in direct hearings
> (Minor) or International meetings (Major).  The Discussion
> Committees meetings need not be public, so I call it a
> caucus system after the non-public political party meetings
> or the WSIS group meetings.

Well, do you understand how much would it cost to make in person
meetings and organize them to be open to the public ?
This is just a practical decision, most of the discussion between
committee members is made electronically or by phone anyway.

> > > The process being used so far is a conference in the homeland
> > > of the DMCA, a Big-Business-friendly launch press release, a web
> > > site with poor accessibility, and committees to filter comments
> > > into group statements for leaders to consider. It all seems
> > > rather similar to the Vienna process to me.  Sorry, but if it
> > > looks like a duck, I ask: will it quack like a duck?
> > 
> > So what's the point in this rant ?
> Try to promote the request to use an open, familiar process
> with a truly international aspect instead of the cooptable
> caucuses.

The conference was really open to anyone to come and partecipate, people
came from Europe, South America, Asia ... of course being held in Boston
there were much more people living in the US than others, but that would
have been the same in any place, with locals being more than others.
Btw, can you explain what is a "familiar" process ?

> Look up "Regulatory Capture" and compare vulnerable
> models with the GPLv3 process. No licensor nor licensee should
> be allowed to influence this process in secret.

Anybody is allowed to influence the process through the comments on the
GPLv3. Of course committees will be able to summarize the issues they
see most important and advice FSF to look at them, but committees have
no power decide anything, they are just a way to allow FSF understand
the concerns of various parties.

> > I think you should calm down and look at the outcome, and partecipate by
> > leaving insightful comments on the draft, that would help. It's not at
> > all like the Vienna process, and it does not pretend to be "democratic",
> > but it is open to comments as it should be.
> These criticisms are made calmly. I'd really prefer to have
> these bugs fixed long before the outcome maybe goes wrong.
> The arguments for secrecy are rather limited, aren't they?

What secrecy ?
The issues are posted on the side along with comments and
anyone is allowed to see them, which committee made the issue and which
explanation is given.

Joke: Do you want me to copy you any mail/phone call I receive during
this year to make it an open, non secret, process ? Should I also record
all in person talks and forward them too ? :-)

> Would leaving comments help? The opaque process does make me
> doubt it. Each time I ask a question about the process, there's
> been either "wait" or no clear answer AFAICR.

The process is quite simple.
a) people and committee members leave their own comments on the comments
b) committees read the comments of an area they they think is important,
try to group comments by argument and discuss the argument.
c) committees posts issues on the same page grouping all comments that
seems relevant and try to summarize the concerns that were raised on the
d) FSF supervises the process, give explanations when needed

At the end, FSF will gather all issues and decide whether they need to
be addressed by modifications, clarifications, FAQs, etc..

> "Democratic" can just mean governed by the people.

What people ? 
Do we have a "Free Software Nation" with passports and citizenship ?
FSF invited People that actually do use the GPLv2 and are interested in
commenting on the GPLv3. I think they tried hard to call persons that
represent the majority of people who uses the GPL day by day.
It's easy to say this process should be "democratic", but you should
perhaps explain who is the "Deimos".

> If the FSF
> did not wish there to be any democracy in GPLv3, then the
> comments process is insincere.

I think you should really explain what does it mean to have a democratic
process in this case. I don't see allowing unknown people to influence
what to put in the GPLv3 has any value.

> I don't believe that's the case,
> so I'd like to see at least the minimal democratic transparency.

Can you please explain what this broad requirement should be in
practical terms ?

> Of course the FSF has the right to use whatever process it wants.
> I have the right to question the process and it would be wonderful
> to see some of the FSF board minutes that show the reasoning.

Have you sent them a request about that ?

> I think FSF members want the GPLv3 to be useful and have wide
> public support, but I think it looks like they have picked a
> lousy tool to try to accomplish that.

I think the tool is a quite good one, and I find really hard to imagine
alternative practical methods. Do you have practical advices to make the
process better ?


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