Recent news that Yorba was denied non-profit status by the IRS adds weight to the observation that the American government appears to be rethinking it’s position on the role of open source software. When viewed alongside March’s denial of non-profit status to the OpenStack Foundation, the decision looks even more like a deliberate change in direction.
Whilst non-profit status has been bestowed on open source software foundations before now, it seems that due to the prevalence of the open source method and the “software freedom” concept, the IRS has come to regard them as normal and now requires that communities demonstrate even more justification before they can enjoy non-profit status.
At first glance this might seem like grim news for open source foundations, but is it? Perhaps what’s really valuable is not simply having the status of a non-profit, but having the shared rules within an open source community which protect it from troublemakers and which are usually formulated as part of the process of becoming a non-profit.
If the main benefit to non-profit status is actually just as a sign that a community has maturely considered the rules by which it which protects community member rights, creates a permissionless environment and ensures best practice governance, perhaps there are other ways we can achieve the same ends.
For more detail, read Simon’s full InfoWorld article.