[personal profile] mjg59
The Linux Foundation is an industry organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and standardising Linux and open source software[1]. The majority of its board is chosen by the member companies - 10 by platinum members (platinum membership costs $500,000 a year), 3 by gold members (gold membership costs $100,000 a year) and 1 by silver members (silver membership costs between $5,000 and $20,000 a year, depending on company size). Up until recently individual members ($99 a year) could also elect two board members, allowing for community perspectives to be represented at the board level.

As of last Friday, this is no longer true. The by-laws were amended to drop the clause that permitted individual members to elect any directors. Section 3.3(a) now says that no affiliate members may be involved in the election of directors, and section 5.3(d) still permits at-large directors but does not require them[2]. The old version of the bylaws are here - the only non-whitespace differences are in sections 3.3(a) and 5.3(d).

These changes all happened shortly after Karen Sandler announced that she planned to stand for the Linux Foundation board during a presentation last September. A short time later, the "Individual membership" program was quietly renamed to the "Individual supporter" program and the promised benefit of being allowed to stand for and participate in board elections was dropped (compare the old page to the new one). Karen is the executive director of the Software Freedom Conservancy, an organisation involved in the vitally important work of GPL enforcement. The Linux Foundation has historically been less than enthusiastic about GPL enforcement, and the SFC is funding a lawsuit against one of the Foundation's members for violating the terms of the GPL. The timing may be coincidental, but it certainly looks like the Linux Foundation was willing to throw out any semblance of community representation just to ensure that there was no risk of someone in favour of GPL enforcement ending up on their board.

Much of the code in Linux is written by employees paid to do this work, but significant parts of both Linux and the huge range of software that it depends on are written by community members who now have no representation in the Linux Foundation. Ignoring them makes it look like the Linux Foundation is interested only in promoting, protecting and standardising Linux and open source software if doing so benefits their corporate membership rather than the community as a whole. This isn't a positive step.

[1] Article II of the bylaws
[2] Other than in the case of the TAB representative, an individual chosen by a board elected via in-person voting at a conference

broken link

Date: 2016-01-21 03:06 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Some of the links in this post are broken, those in this line: "compare the old page to the new one."

Sam Varghese

Org Type Matters

Date: 2016-01-21 03:42 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
"...if doing so benefits their corporate membership rather than the community as a whole"

Well, they are a 501(c)(6) right? So that has probably always been the case.

Re: Org Type Matters

Date: 2016-01-21 04:16 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)

Nope... not a charity, not in the sense of being tax deductible.


Re: Org Type Matters

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-21 04:28 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Org Type Matters

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-21 04:35 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Org Type Matters

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-21 06:44 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Org Type Matters

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-22 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2016-01-21 05:53 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] loic
Well, I'm glad I didn't pony up my $99. I'd been planning to because I wanted to vote for Karen. For the first time the Linux Foundation seemed like it was going to be relevant to my interests.

Date: 2016-01-21 05:56 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Likewise. I would happily have joined solely for this purpose.

So, instead, I signed up as an SFC supporter: https://sfconservancy.org/supporter/ .

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] kensey - Date: 2016-01-21 04:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
From: (Anonymous)
In just 5 years she managed to blow 48% of the GNOME Foundation's budget on an ultimately worthless "Women's Outreach Program" and sink the ship.

Why the hell would you ever vote for someone who did that?

Good News!

Date: 2016-01-21 05:59 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
It sounds to me like the Linux Foundation has dropped it's principals in favor of funds. I wonder how Torvalds feels about this?
(screened comment)

Re: Good News!

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-22 12:52 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Good News!

From: [personal profile] marahmarie - Date: 2016-01-22 03:09 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Good News!

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-22 03:55 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Good News!

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-24 09:33 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Good News!

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-24 09:05 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: Good News!

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-29 04:51 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2016-01-21 08:52 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
It has long been true that the Linux Foundation is more interested in *looking* good than *doing* good.


Date: 2016-01-21 09:02 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
If being an individual member no longer has any value, would a (partial) refund be applicable? I'm thinking if a massive refund-asking action took place now, maybe someone would get the message...

Re: refunds?

Date: 2016-01-21 09:12 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Ok, so not refunds (read the ToC), but a sudden massive rate of individual supporter termination...

Re: refunds?

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-21 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: refunds?

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-24 09:07 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2016-01-21 09:31 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I have nothing but questions over this.

  • Are you suggesting the Linux Foundation doesn't want Sandler on their board, because of some circumstantial lawsuit over licensing violations?

  • If the above is true, are you saying the Foundation is changing their bylaws to prevent a singular person from potentially entering the board?

  • Are you suggesting this person is a threat to the Foundation somehow?

  • Are you saying the Linux Foundation has no board members in favour of GPL enforcement? If so, would one or even two community-elected board members have significant power over the Foundation's roadmap and actions? I can see no significant action in the bylaws that requires anything less than a majority.

  • Are you writing about the same Karen Sandler who eliminated the cash reserves of the GNOME foundation?

  • What are you really writing this for?

    Date: 2016-01-21 10:01 am (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    http://jeff.ecchi.ca/blog/2015/09/13/outrageous-outreach/ suggests that calling her "the same Karen Sandler who eliminated the cash reserves of the GNOME foundation" is not a very good description.

    (no subject)

    From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-21 02:10 pm (UTC) - Expand

    (no subject)

    From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-21 10:25 pm (UTC) - Expand

    re: in favour of GPL

    From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-23 03:14 pm (UTC) - Expand

    Great catch.

    Date: 2016-01-21 09:57 am (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    But i doubt that you would take a similar stance when this for instance concerned X.org or freedesktop.org. From past experience, I know that you will not, but perhaps you should review your own behaviour with respect to your friends at freedesktop.org/X.org, to match the stance you take towards this organization here, and do better there in future.

    But despite the above, great catch indeed. So much fun and games everywhere.

    Luc Verhaegen.

    Re: Great catch.

    Date: 2016-01-21 03:13 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    I couldn't find anything like this in the recent X.Org elections or bylaws. Do you have some link to back you up!

    Re: Great catch.

    From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-22 11:01 am (UTC) - Expand

    Re: Great catch.

    From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-22 11:11 am (UTC) - Expand

    Re: Great catch.

    From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-01-22 12:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
    From: (Anonymous)
    Full Ack with you MJG, that is the first way to make it more unfree/dependend !

    Date: 2016-01-21 02:32 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    Nowadays it's time for FLOSS community to slowly get rid of Linux and invest into development of GNU projects. Viva Hurd!

    Date: 2016-01-21 05:04 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    I actually lol'd :D

    Defensive Publication

    Date: 2016-01-22 02:11 am (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    Note that the Foundation no longer supports defensive publication either, although the links are still there.

    Linux Foundation's tax status

    Date: 2016-01-22 02:28 am (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    Look on guidestar.com for Linux Foundation's tax status. The Linux Foundation is a 501(c)6, which is a tax designation usually used for business leagues and chambers of commerce. Linux Foundation is literally NOT a charity. This is kind of typical behavior for this type of organization with this type of tax designation.

    fart fart fart fart fart fart fart

    Date: 2016-01-22 07:51 am (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart!

    Early on the Linux Bandwagon

    Date: 2016-01-22 07:18 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    I've been on the Linux Bandwagon since 1993, while at the same time, working at at least two of the companies currently members in this org.

    Bottom line is they expressed to me, as an employee, that Linux was a joke and showed no interest....until it took off and became of significance with the hard work of our community sans these "corporate supporters".

    As Linux became more important, they wanted a piece of the the pie....but how to high-jack something founded on open principles? Turn the one integral person into your whore.

    Unfortunately, once Linus gave up his independent streak in exchange for income he, and the kernel and trademark he controls, became controlled as well.

    In my opinion, the "paying" members are the mob, Matthew is the pimp and you know what that makes Linus.

    Thought I'd NEVER see the day that the Cathedral and the Bazaar would fall to the barbarian hoard!

    Is this trend isolated or common?

    Date: 2016-01-22 11:51 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    So far I count:
    - Linux Foundation quietly dropped community representation.
    - The Radeon related conspiracies (I didn't look at it in depth yet).
    - The libusb related conspiracy (See Peter Stuge's talk at 32C3).
    - The X.org foundation corporate membership limit change attempt.
    Is there other examples of such patterns that I missed?
    Are theses isolated incidents? Or are they part of a bigger picture?

    If it is, I can only think of corporate control over free software projects, but why?
    I guess free software companies wouldn't benefit from it.
    However I think that the proprietary software companies would. They nowadays depend on free software so they can't kill it, they probably don't want to either.
    However controlling the associations and leveraging such control could be used to help prevent free software from replacing their proprietary products.

    Here I'm only wondering if something is happening, and I don't have any answers.

    Re: Is this trend isolated or common?

    Date: 2016-01-23 12:18 am (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    Free software has always been a threat to the "capitalist" business model espoused by the big corporations. This model has no room for products that threaten their high profit margins, so they always attempt to buy or hijack the problem people and products. An example from the dark side is Mark Russinovich being bought off by Microsoft after the Sony rootkit affair.

    Another way to look at the Linux Foundation is that we have isolated the problem to a small place and made the corporates pour their money into a different rat hole, but we have to act on that approach, perhaps by forking the kernel and making the community version the important one, removing the Linux Foundation's influence over the real world by simple community action.

    While this approach would seem cruel in that Torvalds would be shorn of his halo, in fact devolving the "governance" of the Linux kernel would serve as a way of keeping him honest, and potentially improve the overall product. Just like all of the MySQL forks forced Oracle to be honest, so would a hurd of Linux forks force "Linux" back to the real world.

    Just my $.02

    fork Linux Foundation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Date: 2016-01-24 07:36 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    much better if we can get rid of Linux foundation.

    LINUS: Take Back Your Trademark!

    Date: 2016-01-24 10:16 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    Linus Torvalds should TAKE BACK his Linux trademark since obviously the spirit and intent of the Linux foundation no longer supports the goals Linus had when he created Linux.

    I'd love to see the Linux Foundation become the, uh "Red Hat Foundation" or some such, to show who's really benefiting.

    Not surprising

    Date: 2016-01-25 02:50 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    The fact that the LF caters to their corporate donors isn't at all surprising for those of us who have known the LF since its inception.

    I used to be employed by the LF. I actually came over during the merger between the ODSL and FSG, so I was there at the very beginning. The entire tone, internally, of the LF was centered around pleasing our corporate overlords from the very start. Those of us who didn't fall in line with that sentiment, didn't last long at the new organization.

    Let me share the story about how I butted up against this new corporate-driven focus early on in the LF's lifetime. I was tasked to try and salvage a project to provide a unified, cross-platform, installation tool. Something that would allow third parties write a single installer that would, in turn, be able to register itself with whatever underlying package management system in use (though, our focus was deb and rpm at the time). It was a good goal, and something both corporations and community alike would have been able to get behind if done right. I even came up with a lovely little proof of concept to demonstrate how we hoped to accomplish this. My work was well received by the package management communities at the time.

    Unfortunately, one of our major donors (either a platinum or gold, it's been too long, and I, frankly, can't remember which) didn't like it. What this company really wanted was essentially a back-door into RPM (they only cared about RPM-based systems). They wanted to allow non-privileged users (e.g., not admins) to install their software on systems. They developed a major *nix desktop application (used primarily by researchers and scientists) and their primary friction-point for their customers was that they'd buy the application suite and then have to have some admin/IT guy actually install it for them because they lacked root access to their systems. They wanted a way to bypass this. They wanted to be able to write an installer that normal, non-root users, could use to install their software system-wide.

    I knew such a patch would NEVER be accepted by upstream distributions and package manager developers, and their requests were shot down constantly by the other community members on the mailing-list where we were discussing this, so I chose to ignore them and, basically, let others in the community "talk sense" into them (I remember a Google employee being very vocal about how bad this idea was, and I pretty much let him act as the big detractor to such a backdoor in RPM).

    They were livid that the LF employee (me) wasn't backing them up in the mailing list traffic. They felt that the money they were paying to the LF meant that the LF would basically be a "lobbying firm" for them to the Open Source community: That whatever crazy thing they (or other platinum/gold members wanted) should be promoted by the LF and it was the LF's responsibility to convince the Open Source community to accept edicts from these corporate sponsors. They complained to higher ups (very higher ups) at the LF, and I lost my job.

    I wasn't the first that this happened to at the LF, and I wouldn't be the last.

    So, yeah, as early as 2008-2010 companies were using the LF as a glorified "lobbying firm", and this obviously hasn't changed.

    Now, of course, there are LF employees who are immune to these sorts of things. For example, I can't imagine this sort of stuff flying with the various kernel developers they employ. But for the myriad of ancillary projects they have employees working on, I'm certain they have felt the corporate influence at some point during their time at the LF.

    Re: Not surprising

    Date: 2016-01-26 10:37 pm (UTC)
    From: [identity profile] yuhong.wordpress.com
    The funny thing is that Windows Installer supported something like this, of course with the program only usable by the user that installed it.

    Re: Not surprising

    From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2016-04-23 01:31 am (UTC) - Expand

    Does Linux Foundation actually control the code

    Date: 2016-05-18 09:52 am (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    AFAIK, Linux kernel (the main "Linux" component) is copyrighted by Linus Torvalds. if that is the case, then the people who write the code still have control on the code (via the development and release procedures ran by Linus Torvalds).


    Matthew Garrett

    About Matthew

    Power management, mobile and firmware developer on Linux. Security developer at Google. Ex-biologist. @mjg59 on Twitter. Content here should not be interpreted as the opinion of my employer.

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