PROPOSAL: Relicensing Unfinished W3C Specifications
At times W3C may stop work on a specification, but some in the
community may wish to continue working on it. This proposal
describes how W3C relicenses unfinished specifications.
Status 2014-12-05: See the approved version of this proposal.
Status 2014-10: This (public) proposal is for review by the W3C Membership. Changes from a August 2014 proposal are based on Member feedback (Member Only). We are incorporating suggested changes based on AC review.
Motivating Use Cases
- A Working Group has been chartered to develop a Foo
Recommendation. After significant investment, the group decides
to stop work on the specification, for example because it
decides there is not enough interest to continue having the work
in its Charter. However, some participants in the Working Group
are still interested in completing work on this approach, for
example, in a W3C Community Group.
- A Working Group is about to close and W3C has no
plans to continue developing the specification in another
Working Group. Users of the developing draft want to be able to continue the work.
Note: W3C may publish other relicensing policies for other use cases.
Eligible and Ineligible Specifications
Only certain specifications are eligible to be relicensed under this policy.
Working Drafts, Candidate Recommendations, and Proposed [Edited] Recommendations, either:
- where a Working Group was chartered to advance to Recommendation but made a consensus decision to stop work before the specification was published as a Recommendation, or
- where the group closed before the specification was published as a Recommendation.
Only material not previously published in a W3C Recommendation
is eligible for relicensing.
These ineligibility provisions take precedence over the
- W3C Recommendations
- Portions of W3C Recommendations that are included in subsequent specifications (e.g., revised Recommendations).
- Specifications where W3C has announced a plan for some other Working Group to take up the specification in question (e.g., via a proposed charter, or advance notice to the Membership).
- Specifications abandoned due to patent licensing concerns.
Requests to Relicense
The Director is responsible for starting W3C Member review of proposals to relicense an eligible specification (according to the process below).
Anyone can request that the Director initiate a Member review.
Typically, that request will come from a Working Group, a key contributor, or an organization wishing to further the work.
A complete request must:
- Identify which eligible specification is to be relicensed.
- Identify which portions should be relicensed, or the entire
- Include rationale for relicensing.
- Indicate whether there was a Working Group decision to request to relicense, with a link to a record of the decision.
The Director will not generally initiate the review process for
ineligible specifications or incomplete requests.
Working Group Input
Before the Director sends a a proposal to the Membership, he takes
into account the views of the responsible Working Group.
Case of Working Group consensus to stop work
The Director must send a request to the responsible Working Group asking whether there is a consensus decision to request to relicense.
- If the Working Group Chairs initiated a request to relicense, this requirement is satisfied.
- If the request to relicense did not come from the Working Group, the Director must nonetheless request a consensus decision by the Working Group. The Chairs are expected to provide a response within 4 weeks.
For both active and past Working Groups, the Director must
make a good faith attempt to notify past editors of the specification
of the intent to relicense the specification.
AC Review and Public Notice
Advisory Committee Formal Review
The Director must send the Advisory Committee a call for review of a proposal to relicense. The call for review must:
- Identify which precise specification (or precise portions of that specification) are to be relicensed
- Identify which party or parties requested to relicense and provide any rationale for relicensing included in the original request.
- Indicate the level of support by the responsible Working Group
for the proposal (consensus, objections, or no response within 4 weeks after request).
- Indicate the proposed license(s) for republication.
- Include instructions for how Members and public provide feedback.
The review period must last at least 4 weeks.
The W3C staff must notify the public of the proposal. The W3C staff will determine these channels, for example, a public community group list devoted to process announcements, the W3C home page, etc.
Decision and Appeal
The Director must announce the decision (to relicense or not) to the Advisory Committee and public.
If the Director chooses not to relicense the specification, the
Director must provide rationale for the decision. Rationale may
include, but is not limited to, the following reasons that may
come to light as a result of review (which is why they are listed here and not in the section on ineligible specifications):
- A specification is not yet a Recommendation, but it is widely deployed, and relicensing could create a high risk of fragmentation.
- Publication of the specification under a permissive license would propagate harmful technology.
- The Director determines that the work should not stop on the specification.
There is no minimum threshold of Advisory Committee support for a proposal to relicense a specification under this policy.
If the Director decides not to relicense, the Advisory Committee may appeal the decision. If the Director decides to relicense, the Advisory Committee may appeal the decision only if there was a Formal Objection. In both cases, W3C follows the AC appeal process.
When the Director's decision is to relicense:
- Publication must not happen while there is possibility of an appeal (see the AC appeal process for time limits on appeal).
- If the Specification is not a W3C Note, it is published as one with the
new license. Otherwise, the Note is updated in place with the new license.
- If the proposal was to relicense a portion of a specification,
that portion is published as a Note with the new license.
- The W3C Webmaster will update the "latest version URI" for the specification series to refer to the relicensed instance.
Preferred Copyright Licenses
The Director's preferred licensing strategy will depend on the situation. However, for a permissive license, the Director expects to use the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY) or subsequent version of the license.
Patent licensing commitments under
Patent Policy apply only to W3C
Recommendations. Therefore, because specification relicensed under this
policy are not Recommendations, there are no new licensing obligations
created by this policy.
Suggested Changes based on AC Review
The following changes suggested by the Membership during their
reviews. These are not part of the proposal; just suggested changes.
These suggestions have not yet been adopted; they are simply gathered here for easy reference. Other reviewers are invited to comment on these proposals in their review.
- PSIG recommends the use of the W3C Software License instead of CC-BY. This could be implemented by changing: "However, for a permissive license, the Director expects to use the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY) or subsequent version of the license" to "However, for a permissive license, the Director expects to use the W3C Software Notice and License"
- Change "However, for a permissive license, the Director expects to use the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY) or subsequent
version of the license" to "However, for a permissive license, the Director
expects to use either: 1) the W3C Software Notice and License; or 2) the
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY) or subsequent
version of that license and, additionally, code in code sections and Web
IDL in Web IDL sections licensed under the W3C Software Notice and
- Change "However, for a permissive license, the Director expects to use the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY) or subsequent version of the license" to "However, for a default permissive license, W3C should create a minimal, new W3C Permissive Document License. This license should be as permissive as the W3C Software License, but be clear that it applies to documents (not necessarily software) and that it offers no patent licensing."
- Change "However, for a permissive license, the Director expects to use the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY) or subsequent version of the license" to "However, for a permissive license, the Director expects to use the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY) (or subsequent version of the license) or CC0"
- Add at the end of the Preferred Copyright License section: "If portions of a specification were originally licensed under the W3C Software License, that should continue in the relicensed version." (The reviewer is satisfied with this proposed change.)
Suggestions to Drop the Proposal
- Do not allow requests to relicense unfinished specs to allow modification outside W3C
- This proposal is not as important as solving the general document license issue.
Note: According to the reviewers who raised the issues, the following changes will satisfy them:
- Change "Motivating Use Cases" to "Examples of Use Cases" so that it is clear that the motivating use cases are not an exhaustive list.
- Change "Note: W3C may publish other relicensing policies for other use cases." to "Note: This proposal is for a procedure to request relicensing of abandoned, unfinished specifications. It does not preclude the possibility of
other procedures for relicensing other classes of specifications, or
discussions of broader changes the W3C Document License."
- Remove section on "Case of Working Group consensus to stop work " and replace it with "Assessing Working Group consensus on relicensing abandoned work: If the WG still exists and the WG did not initiate the request to relicense, the Director must send a request to the responsible Working Group asking whether there is a consensus to support the request to relicense. The Chairs are expected to provide a response within 4 weeks."
- Change "The W3C staff must notify the public of the proposal. The W3C staff will determine these channels, for example, a public community group list devoted to process announcements, the W3C home page, etc." to "The W3C staff notifies the public on firstname.lastname@example.org and on the W3C home page."
Questions? Ian Jacobs <email@example.com>
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