Jan. 20th, 2016
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 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. 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.
 Article II of the bylaws
 Other than in the case of the TAB representative, an individual chosen by a board elected via in-person voting at a conference