[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
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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

Date: 2016-01-21 04:28 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
And not in the sense of having the public interest as their primary goal but rather, their own corporate interests. So their doing something that "benefits their corporate membership rather than the community as a whole" shouldn't be unexpected from a 501(c)(6), since this that is the primary purpose of such an organization.

(Despite the Linux Foundation working very hard to put press out there of the simple but wrong message: "There's no real difference between c(3)'s and c(6)'s".)

Re: Org Type Matters

Date: 2016-01-21 04:35 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Truth. As long as the public interest and their common business interests are aligned, but as soon as they're not you see who is really #1 in a 501(c)(6).

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/ .

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?

Re: Org Type Matters

Date: 2016-01-21 06:44 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Benefiting their ("corporate") membership rather than the community as a whole isn't really the issue (as I see it), it's changing the definition of "member" so that individuals not attached to large companies can no longer have a say. It's not as if, previously, anyone with a Linux box at home could cast votes for board members; you had to pay your dues and as such you were entitled to have the Linux Foundation support, or at least consider, your interests as a member. But with the stroke of a pen your membership has been downgraded and your right to have the LF represent your interests has been taken away. Whatever you might think of the LF or of membership associations in general, it's still a dubious practice from a governance perspective. If you add the fact that it's pretty clearly been done to shunt a specific person or viewpoint from having a voice on the board, it's a really bad look for the Foundation.

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...

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?

    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.

    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.
    From: (Anonymous)
    Full Ack with you MJG, that is the first way to make it more unfree/dependend !

    Date: 2016-01-21 02:10 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    Jeff and I have agreed to disagree on this topic. Maybe as Jeff claims the foundation's cash reserves weren't actively squandered by Ms./Mrs. Sandler, her choice on the matter (sponsoring orgs paying the GNOME foundation instead directly for the associated activities) indirectly led to this outcome. I'm not suggesting Karen Sandler acted with malice, I'm saying she did not make smart decisions.

    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!

    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!

    Date: 2016-01-21 04:12 pm (UTC)
    kensey: (Default)
    From: [personal profile] kensey
    I threw a bunch of money their way on the initial reports of LF withdrawing their support -- but if I hadn't then, I certainly would now.

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

    Re: refunds?

    Date: 2016-01-21 06:19 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    They actually sent out emails to members a few days ago offering either a full refund of memberships taken out within the last 12 months, or the ability to continue membership for a year, a free certificate exam and a lifetime linux.com email address.
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    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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