Re: Proposed revisions of Article 3: Membership

From: Dale Scheetz <dwarf(at)polaris(dot)net>
To: Ian Jackson <ian(at)chiark(dot)greenend(dot)org(dot)uk>
Cc: spi-general(at)lists(dot)spi-inc(dot)org
Subject: Re: Proposed revisions of Article 3: Membership
Date: 1999-03-19 20:11:04
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On Fri, 19 Mar 1999, Ian Jackson wrote:

> I think we need to be clear what the purpose of the membership is,
> from the point of view of the organisation. From my point of view,
> that purpose is control and accountability. That is:
> The membership should/will control SPI, and SPI's board and ultimately
> everyone that acts for SPI will be held accountable to the membership.
> So, given what SPI's purpose is (broadly speaking, to help the free
> software development community by doing certain things that require
> legal personality), we can see that that membership ought to be the
> people who are supposed to benefit from SPI's abilities as a legal
> entity: free software developers.
> I see a very real risk that if SPI ends up legally owning significant
> amounts of copyrights, patents, trademarks, money and other property,
> it could easily become an effective target for `hijacking' by sudden
> large numbers of new members, in order to wrest control of SPI's
> assets away from their intended purposes. This kind of thing is
> already happening regularly to eg Building Societies[1] in Britain.
> [1] A Building Society is a mutual society. It's a financial
> institution, a bit like a savings and loan.
> I don't think we can rely on SPI's charter and contracts/trusts with
> associated projects to protect us from this kind of thing. Instead,
> we need to make it difficult for `just anybody' to become a voting
> member.
> Therefore, I'm very strongly opposed to Nils's Scenario 1, with a
> completely flat and open membership.
> Instead, I believe that voting membership should be open to
> individuals who have contributed significantly to the free software
> community. This will, unfortunately, require some effort to
> administer, but the alternatives (dictat by the Board vs. the
> possibility of hijacking) are much worse.

Up to this point I agree. I believe that prospective members must show
some proof of participation. Obviously Debian developers have all the
proof that they need, and members of other supported projects as well.

Authorship of a piece of free software should also qualify.

I suspect that it will take some kind of "membership committee" to decide
on the less obvious cases.

> I don't particularly care whether there is an additional non-voting
> `associate membership' or some such. There seems little point though
> - what is the purpose of these associate members ? Just to make them
> feel good ?
I had the same feeling until it dawned on me that associate members are a
path to full membership. If you want to be productive and helpful in the
Free Software community, you become an associate member of SPI where you
can do productive work that will earn you a full membership. Something
like the, each member must do work for SPI at least once a year, clause
that currently exists (I think).

While it isn't clear to me just what "jobs" would be available to these
folks, I think that it is worth considering.

Waiting is,

_-_-_-_-_- Author of "The Debian Linux User's Guide" _-_-_-_-_-_-

aka Dale Scheetz Phone: 1 (850) 656-9769
Flexible Software 11000 McCrackin Road
e-mail: dwarf(at)polaris(dot)net Tallahassee, FL 32308

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