Limiting the use of an OpenSource application

David Johnson david at
Mon Mar 4 00:02:34 UTC 2002

On Sunday 03 March 2002 03:54 pm, John Richter wrote:

> > To sell a product to a sweatshop is immoral. To deny someone else the
> > ability to sell a product to a sweatshop is also immoral. You have the
> > legal and moral right to refuse to license your software to anyone. But
> > that is a much different thing from telling others what they can or
> > cannot do. Tyranny in the name of freedom is still tyranny.
> I agree with you, but I'm not sure how this follows from my example. Is
> the argument that it is immoral to deny someone the right to extend or
> resell a piece of software? If so, could you flesh out the argument a
> little more?

I did not mean to imply that denying someone the right to extend a piece of 
software is immoral. Others would disagree, and have made valid arguments for 
their case which I will not dispute here.

But as for *reselling* a piece of software, that is a different matter. 
Regardless of the existance of copyright law, the media upon which the 
software resides is your personal property. It is immoral for the author to 
deny my the right to resell my media since it is not his property anymore. It 
doesn't much matter to me if the author is Microsoft forbidding me to sell my 
Windows CD on eBay altogether, or a warm fuzzy accounting firm requiring me 
to do background checks on eBay customers to make sure they aren't agents for 
a company utilizing sweatshop labor. That they may or may not have the legal 
right to do so is irrelevant, because morality and legality do not have the 
same boundaries.

The information on the CD may still be theirs, and I may only have a license 
to use it, but the CD itself is mine.

Imagine if this wasn't software, but hammers instead. Imagine socially 
conscious Hardware Vendors Emporium didn't want their tools used to build 
houses for bigots. Imagine if you bought a hammer from them and they told 
you that you could not use that hammer to build a house of a bigot, and 
could had to inform anyone you sold the hammer to that they couldn't either. 
Imagine you sold that hammer at a yard sale and it was repurchased by someone 
who did use it to build a house for a bigot. Now imagine sitting in a 
courtroom under lawsuit for allowing that hammer to be used in such a 
despicable manner...

David Johnson

p.s. I don't believe in deed restrictions either.
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