Open Source Initiative Changes Leaders

The OSI is replacing its founding president, Eric Raymond, so that the group can expand, but internal disagreements also may have contributed to the switch.

The Open Source Initiative announced Tuesday that it is replacing its longtime president, Eric S. Raymond, and other officers.

The moves are part of the groups plans to expand its activities beyond its management of the Open Source Definition and the certification of open-source licenses to include creating a registry of open-source software projects and defining "open standards" that are consistent with open source.

The OSI is the group behind open-source licenses. Approval from the OSI is necessary before any software license can be considered open-source.

To lead this expansion, the OSI will now be led by Russ Nelson, a founding member of the nonprofit group and president of Crynwr Software, a high-end e-mail system design company based on open-source software.

Michael Tiemann, vice president of open-source affairs at Red Hat Inc., will become vice president of the OSI. Danese Cooper, manager of Sun Microsystems Inc.s Open Source Programs Office, will continue as the OSIs secretary and treasurer.

However, there may be more to the reorganization than just expansion plans.

Bruce Perens, an open-source leader who co-founded the OSI with Raymond in 1998 and then left it in 1999 over philosophical differences, said he thinks the group has had problems moving forward for years.

"The organization has been completely blocked for years. There were very bad relationships on the board, officers who wouldnt talk to each other. They really needed an anger-management class," Perens said.

While Perens is no longer a member of the OSI, there is other evidence that the officers of the OSI have been disagreeing with each other.

For example, Danese Cooper wrote in her blog Tuesday: "Im sitting in Larry Rosens [OSIs first general counsel and secretary and its one-time executive director] morning session at OSDL Summit today. Larry is making the point that license proliferation is bad, bad, bad ... and mistakenly using the CDDL [Suns new, open-source Common Development and Distribution License] as an example of part of the problem. I have to say this irks me just a bit."

Cooper goes on to defend the newly approved open-source license. "If you consider it on its own—as a license, without all the FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] and speculation around Suns intention in applying it to Open Solaris—youll see that its really meant to be reused.

"Its a template license, without preset jurisdiction, without brand-name issues. Its definitely not just another license."

Suns license has drawn criticism from Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, and from Dan Ravicher, the Public Patent Foundations executive director.

Perens went on to say, "Im afraid that Eric was behind some of that. I think that having him step down will unblock the organization."

In a statement, Raymond, co-founder of the OSI, said, "One of the most important parts of any founder or leaders responsibility is to know when to step aside and let … growth happen."

The OSI is also changing its legal representation. The OSIs general counsel will now be Mark F. Radcliffe, a partner at the global law firm of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary US LLP.

In addition, a new position called director of legal affairs was established. It will be held by Laura Majerus, a partner at the IT boutique law firm Fenwick & West LLP.

"OSI can benefit from fresh ideas and new energy like every open-source project", Rosen said in a statement. "Im pleased and looking forward to helping Mark and Laura as they take on their new roles, and I will continue to support OSIs activities to advise the open-source community on licensing and related issues."

"One of the natural growth passages of a successful institution is outgrowing the need for its founders to be running things," Raymond said. He will continue to do outreach and ambassadorial work for OSI, under the title president emeritus.

"Open source isnt limited to individuals and the hacker community anymore. Organizations of all sizes, state, local and national governments are embracing free and open-source software and are adopting it in record numbers," Nelson, the organizations new president, said in a statement. "Stresses on the open-source community, including big corporate involvement and the expectations of a growing user community, are challenges OSI can help with.

"Well be offering initiatives aimed at meeting the needs of what has become a serious and professional software ecosystem," Nelson said.


Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.