WSFS Mark Protection Committee Draft Amendments

The WSFS Mark Protection Committee, chaired by Donald E. Eastlake III, is circulating drafts of amendments to the WSFS Constitution that they are considering submitting to the Glasgow Business Meeting. The drafts are being posted publicly for comment.  Download a PDF copy here.

The first proposal replaces the current practice of informally licensing Worldcons to use the WSFS marks with a written license agreement.

The second proposal provides for independent monitoring of site election and Hugo Award administration.

It would make mandatory, instead of optional, the delegation of all authority over the Hugos to a Subcommittee whose decisions are irrevocable by the Worldcon Committee. Two members of that Subcommittee will be chosen by the Business Meeting and charged with reporting to the Business Meeting and Mark Protection Committee “as to the propriety of the procedures followed by the Hugo Award administrations.”

Likewise, the Business Meeting will choose two persons who shall report to the Business Meeting and to the Mark Protection Committee “as to the propriety of the procedures followed by the…site selection that they monitor.”

The third proposal makes two changes. It provides the means for Mark Protection Committee members to cause a meeting of the MPC to be held. And it creates authority and a mechanism for the Mark Protection Committee to remove an elected member of the MPC by a two-thirds vote of that committee.

The MPC gives a fuller justification for each proposal in the draft document.


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28 thoughts on “WSFS Mark Protection Committee Draft Amendments

  1. The Hugo thing is interesting. I hope it could prevent failures such as the one in Chengdu.

  2. There’s no way anyone can properly monitor the nomination and award votes unless someone independent keeps a record of the original nominating and award ballots.

    This could and probably should be anonymized. It should also be kept in a different political/legal jurisdiction

  3. Michael J. Walsh on June 3, 2024 at 10:55 am said:

    Todd: At the current rate of Hugo Award growth how many Hugo categories will there be by 20404?

    Assuming a linear trend, the line of best fit of number of Hugo Award categories by calendar year is Number=0.1692×Year – 324.78. Using this model to project the growth to 20404 we would have approximately 3128 Hugo Categories by that point.

    As we will have all trasncended into post-AI-singularity energy beings by that point, this will be a trivial number of categories for our transdimensional metaminds to handle.

  4. @Camestros Felapton:
    But what if we use a localized regression and extend from the mostbrecent trajectory?

    [Apparently I’m writing to you from the year 7852, per the preview function…]

  5. “Required License Agreement”
    Given that this document is required so far in advance of the convention it pertains to, there’s a good chance that some of the people who sign it (on both sides) will change roles before the actual convention. Do new members of the bidding/operating committee need to sign it upon assumption of office?
    Does the 2026 host need to sign/execute the document as soon as it is selected in Glasgow, or do they wait a year until the amendment is ratified in Seattle?

    “Hugo Administration and Site Selection Monitoring ”
    As it reads, no one who is on the committee is eligible for awards. Should there be a provision for someone who might be eligible for an award to drop out of the committee so that they could be nominated and possibly win a Hugo?

    The monitors shall report “as to the propriety of the procedures . . . ” Suppose their report reads: “The procedures are not being followed.” — then what? Because if this committee had been in place in Chengdu, that well could have been the report.

    “MPC Procedures”
    If I was in charge, I would add:
    1.7z The minutes of meetings held in 1.7.x and 1.7.y shall be recorded, and reported to the first Worldcon Business Meeting as is practical. If it is not practical to provide written minutes to a Worldcon Business meeting held soon after an MPC meeting, the MPC Secretary (or the Secretary’s designee) shall be available to provide a verbal summary of the meeting.
    [i.e., an MPC meeting held immediately before a Business Meeting, or during Worldcon, might not nave time to get written minutes to the Business Meeting.]

  6. This is not entirely unlike what I suggested here. I agree that the Mark Protection Committee should take more responsibility for overseeing this.

    However, “monitors” appointed by a previous business meeting and tasked vaguely with looking over the shoulder of and potentially making nasty accusations about a subsequent con’s “propriety”, whatever the hell that is, will cause nothing but trouble. Just allow for audits by the MPC of anonymized voter and ballot data. The committee’s existing structure is fine and any of its members should be able to take part.

    A two-thirds vote of the committee should not be sufficient to remove a committee member at any point in the convention cycle. It will get weaponized in unintended ways.

    Still strongly in favor of paper only ballots. Best way to get back to the original spirit of the enterprise.

  7. (Note: I realize that the MPC is already required to make an annual report to the Business Meeting. However, it seems that folks wanted more detail in the wake of Chengdu than a “report of its activities” may provide, and formal minutes would be better.)

  8. Gray on June 3, 2024 at 1:54 pm said:

    @Camestros Felapton:
    But what if we use a localized regression and extend from the mostbrecent trajectory?

    Well the past five years have been a fluctuation between 17 and 18 categories (including discretionary categories). So if that trend continued it would be 17 or 18 categories. If we go back 10 years and use that to establish a rate of 2 categories every 10 years, then by 20404 we have 3694 categories, which several hundred more than my other estimate and yet not really very different. 3000+ either way.

  9. Still strongly in favor of paper only ballots. Best way to get back to the original spirit of the enterprise.

    It certainly would be an excellent way to drastically cut down on the number of Hugo ballots cast…

  10. So is “anonymized”; it’s remarkably difficult to anonymize data in a way sufficient to prevent inferences being drawn, once you have social cues to help.

  11. bill on June 3, 2024 at 3:03 pm said:
    “Required License Agreement”
    Given that this document is required so far in advance of the convention it pertains to, there’s a good chance that some of the people who sign it (on both sides) will change roles before the actual convention. Do new members of the bidding/operating committee need to sign it upon assumption of office?

    It’s presumably an agreement by the convention bidding/operating committee, not an agreement by a person. Why would new members have to do anything?

    Does the 2026 host need to sign/execute the document as soon as it is selected in Glasgow, or do they wait a year until the amendment is ratified in Seattle?

    It’s a requirement to be on the ballot. The suggested constitutional amendment is of no effect at all except to the extent it is passed in Glasgow and ratified in Seattle at which point it takes effect at the end of the Seattle Worldcon and the 2027 and 2028 Worldcons have already been selected and no longer have any need to appear on a ballot.

    “MPC Procedures”
    If I was in charge, I would add: … minutes …

    All of the minutes of meetings of the MPC and of the WIP BoD, except when it is in executive session and the minutes of that executive session have not bee approved for release, and publicly posted. See https://www.wsfs.org/committees/mark-protection-committee/mpc-minutes/

  12. Typically for trademarks and service marks, there is a requirement for the rights holder to insure certain levels of quality by a licensee, which is pretty much the goal here.
    I’m thinking that the details of “oversite” are going to need to be very detailed here, ranging from location requirements to attendee requirements (allowing ‘bad actors’ to attend could be deemed a quality issue); publications, panel subject matter, staffing, the list goes on.
    Marks can be challenged on the basis of not delivering quality consistent with the brand.

  13. bill on June 3, 2024 at 3:03 pm said:

    “Required License Agreement”
    Given that this document is required so far in advance of the convention it pertains to, there’s a good chance that some of the people who sign it (on both sides) will change roles before the actual convention. Do new members of the bidding/operating committee need to sign it upon assumption of office?

    As Don points out, the license would not be with individual natural persons. It would be the legal entity bidding for and operating the Worldcon. That entity is usually a non-profit corporation. I don’t see why each individual person would have to sign the agreement. It’s like the agreement with (say) the convention center; even if the person who signs it on behalf of the convention leaves the organization for any reason, the agreement is still binding upon the organization.

    (Many years ago, I was the manager of a (non-fannish) non-profit (501c6) corporation. We moved offices. The agency managing the office building presented me with a lease to that appeared to bind me personally with the obligations of the lease. I refused to sign it until they took out that provision and made it clear that I was only signing in my role as an employee of the corporation leasing the space.)

    “Hugo Administration and Site Selection Monitoring ”
    As it reads, no one who is on the committee is eligible for awards. Should there be a provision for someone who might be eligible for an award to drop out of the committee so that they could be nominated and possibly win a Hugo?

    Why? People have always been able to resign from the Hugo Award Administration Subcommittee. You can’t compel someone to be a member. The proposed rule has a provision for filling vacancies.

  14. @ Nicholas Whyte

    I think the difficulty of producing a copy of the anonymized ballot has been exaggerated. It requires a software upgrade to the voting software but this only needs to be done once

    Since Chengdu we have understandably focused on preventing interference by bad actors. All sorts of other problems can potentially affect the ballot. For instance two Worldcons have suffered from having their hotel booking computer systems being flooded. This could have been the Hugo ballot systems.

    We need to have professional level disaster recovery in place which by definition requires an off site backup of data. This would also give you an audit capability. Without any real audit capability the motion is just ‘security theatre’ and doesn’t provide much real protection.

    There’s also the legal problem that we should be able to show that the Hugo’s are run properly and professionally. As part of that we would need to show that the Hugo voting data is protected according to the current best practices

  15. Mm surely in the situation, where some people (promoting any Worldcon) –and as that Worldcon proceeds (and this sometimes happens), then resign or are replaced– those persons not only sign on behalf of themselves (then as officers of
    said bid) but also on behalf of any successors to that bid.. In other words their signatures also bind their successors in office…..and wording to that effect is included……. best wishes and BCNU at Glasgow!!

  16. @Kevin Standlee
    “Why? People have always been able to resign from the Hugo Award Administration Subcommittee. You can’t compel someone to be a member.”

    The Hugo Award Subcommittee monitors are installed by a formal, documented process (elected by the Business meeting and written documentation of consent to participate). If a member who could conceivably win a Hugo wants to resign to protect his eligibility, and everyone agrees that such resignation could be much less formal (“I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee. . . “), then I suppose this may be overkill. But it seems to me that someone changing their status from “ineligible” to “eligible” simply on their own say-so is a little iffy; there should at least be some sort of formal dissemination of that so that nominators know that a particular person or work just became eligible.

  17. bill on June 4, 2024 at 10:53 am said:

    The Hugo Award Subcommittee monitors are installed by a formal, documented process (elected by the Business meeting and written documentation of consent to participate).

    No, what you describe is the WSFS Mark Protection Committee (MPC), which is a committee of the World Science Fiction Society. The Hugo Subcommittee is a subcommittee of a Worlcon committee selected by whatever means that particular convention committee wants. Please read the WSFS Constitution. The current version is at https://www.wsfs.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/WSFS-Constitution-as-of-October-23_2023B.pdf. In any case, members of the MPC can resign anytime and, in fact, one member resigned early this year and the MPC used its authority to elect a temporary replacement until the Glasgow Business Meeting.

    As a historical note: The Hugo Subcommittee thing came about because Hal Clement was a member of the Noreascon I committee and had to resign from the committee so he would be eligible for Hugo nomination. At that time all members of a Worldcon committee were ineligible for the Hugos they administered. So a few years later, the WSFS Constitution was amended to provide for a Hugo Subcommittee with the ineligibility only affecting the Subcommittee members.

  18. @bill–

    But it seems to me that someone changing their status from “ineligible” to “eligible” simply on their own say-so is a little iffy; there should at least be some sort of formal dissemination of that so that nominators know that a particular person or work just became eligible.

    People resigning from the Hugo subcommittee generally announce it so that yes, people will know.

    This is not a crazy new idea. This has been pretty standard since the Hugo subcommittee was first created–which, while significantly more recent than the creation of the Hugos, was not in the last decade or two, either.

    You are trying to create a problem where none exists.

  19. All of the minutes of meetings of the MPC and of the WIP BoD, except when it is in executive session and the minutes of that executive session have not bee approved for release, and publicly posted.

    Further, the January 28th minutes demonstrate that these committees can hide whatever they want from the membership by going into a Committee of the Whole or redacting material.

    So not only is your wish in effect bill, but they are also already subverting it.

  20. @Donald Eastlake
    “No, what you describe is the WSFS Mark Protection Committee (MPC), which is a committee of the World Science Fiction Society. ”
    No, what I describe is the Hugo Administration Subcomittee as described in the proposed amendment 3.13 (blue text at the end) and proposed amendment 5.x (1).
    @Lis Carey
    “People resigning from the Hugo subcommittee generally announce it so that yes, people will know.” If all they do is announce it, how do you ensure that all nominators and voters get the word? At a minimum, the Hugo Subcommittee should keep a current public online list of those who are ineligible by virtue of being on the Subcommittee (or for other reasons); the Subcommittee in the best position to update that list in real time, instead of nominators having to find out for themselves via whatever means.

    “This has been pretty standard since the Hugo subcommittee was first created–which, while significantly more recent than the creation of the Hugos, was not in the last decade or two, either.”
    If the Hugo subcommittee has been around for a decade or two, can you point me to the clause in the WSFS Constitution that establishes it? For that matter, if it already exists, what is the purpose of proposed amendment 3.13?

    @ChewyGlacier
    “So not only is your wish in effect bill, but they are also already subverting it.”
    If people are subverting the process within the rules, that is only more evidence that the rules should be changed to keep that from happening. If what I propose doesn’t fix that, maybe you could make a proposal that would?

  21. “The monitors shall report “as to the propriety of the procedures . . . ” Suppose their report reads: “The procedures are not being followed.” — then what? Because if this committee had been in place in Chengdu, that well could have been the report.”
    I think this is the key point. The problem in Chengdu was that people ignored the existing rules – if someone ignores the new rules and the licensing agreement then what is the remedy. I don’t think that MPC will realistically be able to sue to enforce the licensing agreement in another country (although I support having a licensing agreement so everyone is on the same page). What can the MPC do in this situation?

  22. bill on June 4, 2024 at 10:33 pm said:
    @Donald Eastlake
    “No, what you describe is the WSFS Mark Protection Committee (MPC), which is a committee of the World Science Fiction Society. ”
    No, what I describe is the Hugo Administration Subcommittee as described in the proposed amendment 3.13 (blue text at the end) and proposed amendment 5.x (1).

    Yes, you are correct as regards the two special members of the Hugo Award Subcommittee provided for by the proposed constitutional amendment. But the Hugo Award Subcommittee is a subcommittee of the Worldcon committee, not a subcommittee of the Business Meeting and not a subcommittee of the Mark Protection Committee. All of the other members of each Hugo Award Subcommittee would still be chosen by whatever method that Worldcon committee wishes, just as they are now.

    @Lis Carey
    “People resigning from the Hugo subcommittee generally announce it so that yes, people will know.” If all they do is announce it, how do you ensure that all nominators and voters get the word? At a minimum, the Hugo Subcommittee should keep a current public online list of those who are ineligible by virtue of being on the Subcommittee (or for other reasons);

    People who think they might get nominated for a Hugo avoid being on a Hugo Award Subcommittee. I think most nominators wouldn’t bother to look at such a list. They just nominate the people/works they want to nominate. Anyway, if you go to each Worldcon’s website and look at their committee list/structure, you can usually see who constitutes their Hugo Award Subcommittee.

    “This has been pretty standard since the Hugo subcommittee was first created–which, while significantly more recent than the creation of the Hugos, was not in the last decade or two, either.”
    If the Hugo subcommittee has been around for a decade or two, can you point me to the clause in the WSFS Constitution that establishes it? For that matter, if it already exists, what is the purpose of proposed amendment 3.13?

    Again, please go read the WSFS Constitution. It is available here https://www.wsfs.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/WSFS-Constitution-as-of-October-23_2023B.pdf. Just go their and search for “subcommittee”. That word is used in the WSFS Constitution only to refer to each Worldcon’s Hugo Award Subcommittee. This amendment makes the creation, by each Worldcon, of a Hugo Award Subcommittee, mandatory, and adds two special members, elected by the Business Meeting, to each Hugo Award Subcommittee. In the amendment, the crossed out text in red is text already in the Constitution being deleted, the text in black is text in the Constitution being retained, and the underlined text in blue is new text being added to the Constitution.

    I believe the provision for an optional Hugo Award Subcommittee has been in the WSFS Constitution for over forty years, since sometime in the mid- to late-1970s. And, while phrased as optional, I believe that since the provision was added to the Constitution, every Worldcon has used it to create their own Hugo Award Subcommittee.

  23. I think it would be wise to explicitly say that one of the duties of the monitors is to sign off on the correctness of the voting figures.

    in some situations it is sometimes helpful to say that the rules require you to do something and it is nothing personal

    Also I think there should be some requirement to inspect the security of the balloting software and ensure there is an ‘off site’ backup of the ballots (preferably in another legal jurisdiction)

    We don’t ever want to find are we are in the position where the ballots have been deleted or encoded by some ransomware attack or hardware failure

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