Richard Fontana

Last modified by Gabriele Ruffatti on 2015.02.11 at 09:50:06 PST


In August 2013 I was honored to become the first Individual Member-elected Board member of the OSI. I am now seeking reelection to another term as an OSI Board member, to continue my involvement in this important and revitalized community organization and to represent and advance the interests of the OSI's Individual membership.

About me

Twitter | LinkedIn | GitHub 

I am a lawyer with both substantive expertise and passionate interest in open source and free software legal and policy issues. I have been an enthusiastic user of free software for some 17 years, and I have over 8 years of experience as a legal counselor for open source project developers, open source/free software nonprofits, and commercial entities involved in open source use and development.

For the past six years I have been the open source legal counsel for Red Hat, the world's largest provider of open source-based products to enterprises and a company whose engineering methodology is thoroughly tied to community open source project development. Before joining Red Hat I was counsel at the Software Freedom Law Center, where my principal client was the Free Software Foundation and where I focused on the drafting of the GPLv3 license family. I am a frequent speaker on topics at the intersection of open source, law and policy, to diverse technical, legal and business audiences.

Why I'm running for reelection

My reasons for running last July remain relevant. I am naturally drawn to the licensing mission of the OSI. The OSI must continue its historical role of maintaining, guarding, interpreting and applying the Open Source Definition, and I believe my experience qualifies me to make significant contributions to this aspect of the Board's work. In the absence of much helpful legislative and judicial guidance, the OSI's license gatekeeping function is critical for establishing and strengthening the legal framework that allows open source development to prosper. The OSI must ensure that the Open Source Definition is up to date and easily understandable by members of the community. I continue to believe the OSI should also examine whether it can perform a more active role in defining norms of community project development that go beyond the mostly legal criteria of the Open Source Definition. I strongly believe the OSI must be active in combatting "open-washing", the dilution of the meaning of open source. 

However, in my brief time as a Board member, I have learned that the most pressing work of the OSI is oriented more towards education and outreach concerning open source. I have found it inspiring to work with a Board that is actively engaged in such activities. There is no question that our greatest accomplishment during the past year has been the hiring of the OSI's first General Manager, Patrick Masson, who has a strong background in working in the educational sphere. With Patrick's energy and administrative skill, and with the oversight of a Board passionately devoted to the mission of promoting as well as protecting open source, I believe there is a great deal that the Board can accomplish on the advocacy side of the OSI's mission, and I would greatly welcome an opportunity to continue and deepen my involvement in this work.

I believe strongly that today's OSI must nurture good relationships with other free software and open source community organizations and stakeholders. Given my past professional connection to (and ongoing support for) the FSF, I have found it particularly gratifying that the OSI recently joined with the FSF in a brief for an important US Supreme Court case on software patents. I hope to help the OSI engage in similar cross-organizational collaborative activities in the future. During my term as a Board member I have served as chair of the Affiliates Committee, working with Patrick Masson to expand OSI's network of nonprofit Affiliate member organizations. 

Feel free to ask me any questions. Thank you!

Created by Richard Fontana on 2014.03.12 at 18:26:00 PDT

Submit feedback regarding this wiki to

This wiki is licensed under a Creative Commons 2.0 license
XWiki Enterprise 5.2.2 - Documentation