Proposed revisions of Article 3: Membership

Ian Jackson ian at
Fri Mar 19 14:42:42 UTC 1999

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

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.

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 ?


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