from the we-stay-bought dept.
Matthew Garrett reports
The Linux Foundation is an industry organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and standardising Linux and open source software. 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 [January 18], 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. 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 [YouTube]. 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.
Roy Schestowitz at TechRights entitled his coverage
The Linux Foundation Has Become Like a Corporate Think Tank; Microsoft Influence Included
[Our extensive coverage of malfeasance at the European Patent Office] has prevented us from covering as much about the Linux Foundation as we used to, including payments from Microsoft, services to Microsoft, and abandonment of GPL enforcement efforts because GPL enforcers went after a Microsoft executives-run VMware.
Several of the places that covered this remarked about the extremely quiet nature of the process.
Linux Foundation chief executive Jim Zemlin has made a disappointing response to the reports about changes in the by-laws of the Foundation designed to prevent community representation. Confronted by facts that show clearly that the Foundation has made changes to block out the community, Zemlin [has] tried to spin and talked about irrelevant aspects of the debate around the issue. iTWire could not have made it more plain when pointing out the changes in the by-laws; they were marked in bold. Zemlin ignored everything and instead created a few straw men and then addressed them.
His statement began with a straw man: "The same individuals remain as directors, and the same ratio of corporate to community directors continues as well." Nobody has said anything about a change of directors, but the latter part of Zemlin's statement is just plain wrong. How can the ratio be the same when the community was earlier allowed to have two directors and now cannot have any? Zemlin then went on to claim that the Linux Foundation's move is in keeping with other FOSS organisations that are also cutting down on community representation. This again is incorrect, another straw man. Would he care to name the organisations he claims to be trying to emulate?
The major part of his statement talks about the abuse directed at Karen Sandler, the head of the Software Freedom Conservancy. Zemlin's changing of the by-laws was widely seen as a move to keep Sandler off the board as she is a passionate supporter of the GPL. The Conservancy is funding a GPL enforcement action against VMWare, a silver member of the Linux Foundation, and this is seen as a major reason why Zemlin has concluded that the fewer community members on the board the better.
In discussions around the web, there has been mention of the way the GNOME Foundation ran low on funds when Sandler was its head. Some claim that this was because more money was diverted to the outreach programme for women. Sandler has earned some flak for this. And so Zemlin became a knight in shining armour to defend what he characterised as a damsel in distress. Wow, he really went heavy on this.
The fact that most of the code for the kernel comes from developers employed by this company or that appears to have turned Zemlin's head and made him determined to ensure that only non-controversial people occupy the decision-making spots on the Foundation.
This is the relevant blog post by Linux Foundation chief Jim Zemlin responding to the controversy.