[legal] Feedback on OpenID IPR Policy and Process

Dick Hardt dick at sxip.com
Thu Oct 25 06:35:09 UTC 2007

Feedback on OpenID IPR Policy

> 2. “Contributions” mean any communication to or through a  
> particular Specification Mailing
> List, or other textual materials, that are provided by a  
> Contributor and are intended for
> inclusion in an OpenID Specification.

This is a little vague on the intention. If I post on my blog about  
OpenID about where I think it should go, is that a Contribution? Who  
determines if it was intended for inclusion?

> 3. “Contributor” means, with regard to a particular Work Group, any  
> person (individual,
> entity, or otherwise) who has signed the applicable agreement in  
> accordance with Section II.
> 1(b) and has joined such Work Group by requesting access to the  
> applicable Specification
> Mailing List and, if such person is an individual, includes such  
> person’s employer or other
> person or entity to whom that person owes a duty with respect to  
> activities such as his or her
> participation in OpenID.

Who or what is OpenID? "OpenID" is referenced a number of times. It  
is not defined. Is it the community, the spec, the foundation? The  
term is used in a number of different ways. I would suggest it only  
be used as an adjective and each use be defined in the definitions.

> (b) OpenID Contribution Agreement.

Is this document the agreement? Is there a separate agreement? What  
is to be signed and returned? I don't see any signature blocks.
Who is the agreement with? There is the Contributor and ???
What jurisdiction is the agreement made in? Who enforces the  
agreement? What happens if a Contributor breaks the agreement?

> 1. Becoming a Contributor.
> (d) Retroactive Effect.  In consideration of OpenID allowing any  
> individual or entity to
> become a Contributor, such individual or entity acknowledges that  
> Section V and VI of this
> Policy apply to any Contributions made before signing the OpenID  
> contribution agreement
> or otherwise agreeing to the terms of this Policy.

How would these Contributions be determined?  Would a post on ANY  
OpenID mailing list be considered a Contribution?


> OpenID Process Document
> 1               Definitions.  Each of the following initially  
> capitalized terms has the respective meaning stated below.  All  
> other initially capitalized terms have the meanings assigned in  
> this OpenID Process Document (“Processes”), in the OpenID  
> Foundation’s IPR Policy (“IPR Policy”), or in the Bylaws.

Is this not the OpenID Process Document? Is that not the same as the  
terms below?
Referring to the OpenID Foundation Bylaws as a source of definitions  
I think is troublesome as the Bylaws can be modified, causing a  
potential change in this document. I'd prefer to have all definitions  
in this document so that it is complete. Is there a reason for  
spreading the definitions around?

> 1.3“Bylaws” means the then-current bylaws of the OpenID Foundation,  
> as may be modified from time
> to time as provided therein.

I could not find the Bylaws for the Foundation online. A URL for the  
Bylaws should be included (as well as getting them online!)
> 1.5                “Editor(s)” means, for a particular  
> Specification to be developed by a particular WG, the individual  
> Contributor(s) selected to coordinate development of, and  
> transcription of the work of the WG for, such Specification, as  
> well as (together with any other Editors for that WG) to administer  
> WG operation.
How are Editors selected? What stops all Contributors from being  
> 1.6                “Specifications Council” means a group comprised  
> of: (a) all past Editors of Final Specifications who are still  
> actively contributing to the OpenID community; (b) two  
> representatives from the Board (one of whom is the OpenID  
> Foundation Executive Director; and (c) all Editors from current  
> WGs.  Each Editor will participate as a non-voting member of the  
> Specifications Council until he or she has published a Final  
> Specification, at which time such Editor will become a voting member.

What makes an Editor an actively contributing member? When is an  
Editor removed? What is the rational for the OpenID Foundation to be  
involved in the Specifications Council? Are those voting positions?
> 1.7                “Supermajority” means at least two-thirds of  
> those entitled to vote on an issue.
What is the rational for needing a Supermajority?
> 1.8                “Minimum Membership” means, five Contributors.   
> For a new WG to be formed, at least one such Contributor should  
> optimally be a member of the Specifications Council.
What happens if there are no Contributors in a WG? Will it more  
likely be rejected? What is the rational that there should be a  
member of the Specifications Council?

> 2               Work Groups.
> 2.1                Proposal.  Any group of at least Minimum  
> Membership may form a WG by submitting a proposal via the mailing  
> list specs at openid.net; such proposal will include the following  
> items, will be written in English, and will be provided in a plain  
> text electronic form:
> (a)   Charter.  The proposal will include the WG Charter, which  
> will include:
> (i)          a WG name, which will not include trademarks not owned  
> by the OpenID Foundation or content that is infringing, harmful, or  
> inappropriate, and any acronym or abbreviation for that name;
> (ii)        a clear statement of purpose;
> (iii)       an initial Scope, which must be related to the purpose  
> of the OpenID community and which will include a definition of what  
> is and is not the envisioned “work” of the WG;
> (iv)       a proposed list of Specifications, including working  
> titles, to be produced (and any other deliverables) and projected  
> completion dates;
> (v)        anticipated audience or users of the work;
> (vi)       the language in which the WG will conduct business;
> (vii)     the method of work including any virtual or planned face- 
> to-face meetings;
> (viii)     a basis for determining when the work of the WG is  
> completed.
> (b)   Background Information.  The proposal will also include the  
> following:
> (i)          any related work being done in other WGs or  
> organizations, why the proposed new WG is necessary, and any  
> proposed liaison with any such other WGs or organizations;
> (ii)        the names, email addresses, and any Constituent  
> affiliations of at least the Minimum Membership who support forming  
> the WG (“Proposers”) and the proposed Editor(s); and
> (iii)       optionally, a list of Contributions that the Proposers  
> anticipate will be made to the WG.
> 2.2                Review.  The Specifications Council will review  
> proposals within 15 days after receipt and promptly provide notice  
> to specs at openid.net, either accepting it or explaining the reason  
> for rejection.  If a proposal is rejected, it may be modified and  
> resubmitted.  The reasons for rejection will be limited to:
> (a)   an incomplete Proposal (i.e., failure to comply with §2.1);
> (b)   a Supermajority decision that the proposal contravenes the  
> OpenID community’s purpose;
This seems potentially arbitrary. What if there is a proposal that  
the Specifications Council does not like? This looks to be a source  
of politics. Why not let WGs get started and put more judgement on  
the output?
> (c)    a Supermajority determination that the proposed WG does not  
> have sufficient support to succeed or to deliver proposed  
> deliverables within projected completion dates; or

Another potentially arbitrary decision point. Why not let the WG  
start and see if it can complete?
> (d)   a good-faith determination that the proposal is likely to  
> cause legal liability for the OpenID Foundation or others (in which  
> case, the Specifications Council may seek Board review of the  
> proposal).
> 2.3                After Acceptance.  Promptly after acceptance, a  
> mailing list will be created for the WG and one or more of the  
> Proposers should notify general at openid.net of the new WG.  This  
> notice will announce the formation of a new WG, invite  
> participation, and describe the WG’s proposed work, including any  
> planned meetings (as based on the approved Charter).  The first  
> obligation of a new WG is to establish and approve its Scope, which  
> should broadly describe the outer limits of the WG’s work.
> 2.4                Contributors.  Only persons or entities that  
> have properly agreed to the IPR Policy may become Contributors to  
> (or participate in) a WG.  A WG may, however, make copies of its  
> Specification Mailing List, drafts, and other documents available  
> for review by non-members.  A WG will not review or acknowledge  
> comments by, or accept Contributions from, anyone other than  
> Contributors.  The Specifications Council may close a WG at any  
> time that the WG has not had Minimum Membership for six consecutive  
> months.
How is Minimum Membership determined? Addresses susbcribed to the  
mailing list? Or is it via a formal withdrawal.
> 2.7                Editors.  A WG’s work is coordinated by one or  
> more Editors, and each WG must have at least one Editor and  
> additional Editors may be selected at any time.  Different Editors  
> in a WG may, however, be associated with different Specifications.   
> If an Editor takes emergency leave, or is otherwise unavailable, an  
> additional Editor will be selected.  If a WG does not have an  
> Editor, it will suspend work until an Editor is selected.  The  
> Specifications Council may close a WG at any time that it has not  
> had an Editor for the immediately prior 30 days.  An Editor may  
> also be removed at any time by the Contributors to the applicable  
> WG, under §2.16; or by the Specifications Council, on its own  
> initiative or in response to a complaint.
Per above, how are Editors selected?
> 2.16             Decisions.
> (a)   General.  All decisions are either Core Decisions or Non-Core  
> Decisions, and all decisions may be made in meetings (e.g., face-to- 
> face, telephonic, or otherwise) or by email or other electronic  
> means.  Any decision that is not clearly a Non-Core Decision will  
> be treated as a Core Decision.  “Core Decision” means a decision  
> relating directly to the WG’s substantive work, including those  
> related directly to Specification content, Charter, or Scope; to  
> approve an Implementers Draft or a Final Specification, or to adopt  
> Errata (defined in §3.6); and to amend the Charter or to re-charter  
> the WG.  “Non-Core Decision” means any decision other than a Core  
> Decision, including decisions on date, time, place, and method(s)  
> of attending meetings and other administrative details regarding WG  
> operation or governance.
Moving Core Decision and Non-Core Decision definitions to the  
Definitions section would make the document cleaner.
Is there a format for how decisions are presented? Who is responsible  
for determining the results of a decision? If removing or adding an  
Editor a Core decision or a Non-Core Decision? (S 2.6)

> (b)   Consensus.  Consensus is a core value.  To promote consensus,  
> Editors should encourage consideration and resolution of all  
> legitimate comments of Contributors.  All WG decisions will  
> optimally be made by determining consensus, without formal vote.   
> Editor(s) will assess consensus without a formal vote and, when a  
> proposal is pending, may interpret silence of those who have  
> received proper notice (or who are present) as assent.  Consensus  
> does not imply unanimity, although there should be substantial  
> support for consensus decisions.  For Core Decisions, consensus  
> should reasonably reflect the opinion of a Supermajority of  
> Contributors to the applicable WG, after reasonable inquiry by the  
> Editors.  For Non-Core Decisions, consensus should reflect the  
> opinion of a majority of Contributors actually expressing an opinion.
How is consensus determined? Is silence consent? Does one negative  
vote mean there is no consensus?
> (c)    Formal Vote.  If a decision cannot be made by consensus, the  
> WG should defer decision until consensus can be reached.  If  
> deferral would prejudice a WG’s work, however, the Editor(s) may  
> call a formal vote.  Any such vote will otherwise be in accordance  
> with §§4.6-4.9 of the Bylaws, as applied to all Contributors (even  
> if not OpenID Foundation members), except as otherwise provided in  
> this §2.16(c).
I would be much more comfortable if the Voting Process was defined in  
this document. A change in the Bylaws voting which has to do with the  
Foundation will now impact Voting in the IPR Process.
> 2.17             Closing a WG.  A WG may be closed at any time by  
> majority vote of all of its then-current Contributors (or by Board  
> resolution, for the reasons stated in these Processes or otherwise  
> if deemed necessary by the OpenID Foundation to avoid or mitigate  
> legal risk).  The Board may also close a WG that has completed all  
> deliverables in its Charter and has not agreed to develop new  
> deliverables within the 180 days before closure; or that has not  
> reasonably progressed to achieve its purpose, as defined by its  
> Charter.
Why is the Board responsible for closing a WG?
> 3.4                WG Decision.  Approval of a draft as an  
> Implementers Draft or the then-current Implementers Draft as a  
> Final Specification should be based on consensus.  If the WG cannot  
> reach consensus, then the decision may be made by formal vote.  The  
> WG Editor(s) will notify the WG of a determination that consensus  
> has been reached or of a call for (and results of) a formal vote.   
> Any Implementers Draft or Final Specification approved by the WG  
> will include a list of Contributors who participated in its  
> development.
It is not clear that a Draft is approved by the WG, and only the WG.  
Is this true?
So if a bunch of people that oppose a spec join as contributors, then  
a spec will never be approved unless the Board steps in?

> 4               Board Involvement.
> 4.1                Delegation.  The Board may delegate any of its  
> obligations under these Processes (other than creating  
> subcommittees) to a subcommittee of Board members, OpenID  
> Foundation members, or both, and applicable terms in these  
> Processes will then be deemed to refer to the subcommittee instead  
> of the Board.
> 4.2                Complaints; Appeals.
> (a)   General.  On proper notice from a Contributor, the Board will  
> consider any complaint related to, or appeal of, any action taken  
> (or alleged failure to act) related to these Processes.  The Board  
> has authority to take any action it deems necessary to remedy a  
> complaint or appeal.
So the implication of this is that the Board is the Final arbitrator  
and can do whatever it wants?

> 4.4                Amendment.  The Board may amend these Processes  
> from time to time, in its sole discretion.
Essentially the Board can make the specifications with this clause,  
as anything can be changed by the Board.
> 4.5                Decisions.  All Boards decisions under this §4  
> will be made in accordance with the Bylaws.
> 5               Miscellaneous.  All notices and correspondence  
> under these Processes will be by email.  Unless stated, or context  
> requires, otherwise: (1) “written” or “in writing” refers to a non- 
> electronic document only, manually signed by authorized  
> representatives of the writing party(ies); (2) all internal  
> references are to these Processes; (3) “days” means “calendar  
> days”; (4) “may” means that the applicable actor has a right, but  
> not a concomitant duty; and (5) all decisions of the Board (or an  
> Editor) under these Processes are in the Board’s (or such Editor’s)  
> reasonable discretion.  Examples following “including” or “e.g.”  
> are not exhaustive (i.e., are interpreted to include the words  
> “without limitation”), unless qualified by words such as “only” or  
> “solely.”  These Processes will be interpreted according to the  
> plain meaning of their terms.  Section headings are for convenience  
> only and will not affect the meaning of any provision.
Where are written documents sent?


General Feedback

1) Looking over the archives for Legal [1], I see nominal feedback  
from the OpenID Community at large. This should cause concern.

2) The OpenID Foundation is becoming a Standards Body. This is  
contrary to the Charter of the Foundation. The Governance of the  
Foundation did not anticipate being a Standards Body and the  
political implications of being a Standards Body. As a participant in  
the formation of the Foundation, it was very clear that we did NOT  
want the Foundation to be Standards Body. Will the Foundation be  
responsible and liable for enforcing the IPR of all the specs?

3) Many organizations will NOT use a standard that has not been  
endorsed by a recognized Standards Body. While the OpenID Foundation  
could lobby to be recognized, that will take time and fractures the  
market as alternative standards must be selected where OpenID would  
be appropriate.


The IPR for OpenID 2.0 needs to be cleaned up. Why not simply have  
the Contributors to the existing specs that are almost final make non- 
assertion statements and assign copyright, then move all further  
OpenID standards work to, dare I say it, OASIS?  The Foundation could  
join OASIS which would allow any individual contributor that is a  
member of OASIS to participate. As holder of the OpenID trademark,  
the Foundation would have an effective veto on a standard being able  
to use the OpenID trademark -- but no control on the development of  

- Dick
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.openid.net/pipermail/openid-legal/attachments/20071024/d314bd55/attachment-0002.htm>

More information about the legal mailing list