Open Source Geospatial Foundation Gets a Name and Domain at Chicago Meeting

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Welcome to GISWeekly! In discussions this week with Gary Lang, VP of engineering for the Infrastructure Solutions Division (ISD) of Autodesk and Rich Steele, Autodesk corporate counsel, GISWeekly learned about the outcome of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation meeting in Chicago last week. Find out about it in this week's Industry News.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Open Source Geospatial Foundation Gets a Name and Domain at Chicago Meeting
By Susan Smith

In discussions this week with Gary Lang, VP of engineering for the Infrastructure Solutions Division (ISD) of Autodesk and Rich Steele, Autodesk corporate counsel, GISWeekly learned about the outcome of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation meeting in Chicago last week. The MapServer Foundation, as the foundation was previously dubbed, was announced at Autodesk University in November. In January, Autodesk renamed their new product MapServer Enterprise to MapGuide Open Source. At that time, the February 4 meeting was announced to settle on a name for the Foundation and elect board members.

The Attendees at the meeting represented over 17 different groups/companies and over 20 different open source geospatial projects. A summary of the event can be found on the website.

1) What agenda items did you plan to address with the Open Source meeting and what were the most critical issues on the table?

GL: The most critical were agenda items were: governance, legal protection, IPR, licenses, funding, community management.

2) How was a name for the Foundation arrived at?

GL: Voting on the list came to a tie between MapTools and Open Geospatial Software Foundation. Arnulf wanted “open source” in the name, and many of us including me agreed. It was expressed that OS Geospatial Foundation (OSGEO) was suggested as a good compromise between that desire and the voted-on names. So we took a vote in the room - OSGEO was agreed on, and we bought the domain at the end of the vote.

3) Was the board formed before this meeting or during the course of the meeting?

During the Governance breakout in the meeting.

4) Who are the chosen board members and how long will their tenure be?

RS: There will be nine initial directors. Five were chosen in Chicago from among the meeting participants, and four more will be chosen in the coming weeks by the foundation's membership-at-large. Because the foundation hasn't ratified a set of bylaws yet, the tenure of the initial board has not yet been determined. However, the consensus is that the initial board may serve for up to a year, or perhaps less if an annual meeting of the membership is held sometime later in calendar 2006.

The five Chicago Board members are: Arnulf Christl, Markus Neteler, Frank Warmerdam, Chris Holmes and Gary Lang

5) How is membership decided?

RS: The community members (~21 people) who attended the Chicago meeting will be admitted as the initial members of the foundation. Within the next week or so, once the OSGeo mail lists are set up, there will be a call for additional nominations for foundation membership from the public community. The existing membership formed in Chicago will then vote on the new nominations, with a goal of admitting additional members so that the total membership, including the original 21, does not exceed 45. There are no formal criteria for membership other than peer recognition of the individual's contributions and potential for continuing contributions to the community. As with the Apache model, all interim members are natural persons, not corporations.

Once the second tranche of members is admitted, the membership as a whole will elect 4 new directors to fully constitute the interim board of 9 persons.

6) Were there legal issues addressed?

RS: Yes, there was a legal breakout session focused primarily on foundation IP policies, licensing and license compatibility, and what form the OSGeo contributor agreements would take (i.e., copyright assignment vs. a broad license to the foundation). The group also discussed the foundation's plans for applying for tax-exempt status

7) As there are many open source providers, how will the foundation determine what licensing and format practices will be acceptable?

GL: We agreed to accept only those projects that use an OSI-approved license.

RS: The founders recognize that OSGeo is not the creation of a new open source project from scratch, but rather an amalgamation of many existing projects with their own unique history and licensing philosophy. As a result, it is unlikely that the foundation will require the use of any particular open source license as this would only serve to exclude many worthwhile projects. However, in furtherance of its general philosophy of promoting open source software, the foundation would require that all software be released under an open source license approved by the Open Source Initiative. The interim board will be charged with developing the OSGeo's IP policies and contributor agreements. And because one of the goals of the foundation is to create a open geospatial ecosystem with cross-project collaboration, the board will also be working through license-compatibility issues.

8) How will the OSGF be financed?

GL: Sponsorships. Autodesk will be one sponsor.

9) What kinds of projects will the OSGF initiate and will those projects be designed to generate revenue?

GL: Right now, the goal is to incorporate projects that address end-to-end user problems. That is, we'd like to provide a one-stop place for end-users to find and download software that works together.

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