restricting the use of open source software

Brian C brianwc at
Fri Mar 25 22:53:43 UTC 2005

Hi Julien,

Ernie already explained your proposed term would violate #6. I think it
also runs afoul of #5.

The Open Source Definition at:

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

Rationale: In order to get the maximum benefit from the process, the
maximum diversity of persons and groups should be equally eligible to
contribute to open sources. Therefore we forbid any open-source license
from locking anybody out of the process.

Forbidding the use of the software in military applications and within
military institutions would be to discriminate against a person or group
of persons. Hence, such a license would not satisfy the open source
definition and would not be "open source".

You're of course free to write such a license and to use it. It simply
won't be open source.

One problem you will face is defining the scope of this limitation. If a
GNU/Linux distribution wanted to include your software in their
distribution, but couldn't know whether members of the military might
download it, what steps would they have to take to guarantee that they
don't distribute it to them? Uncertain obligations are likely to make
them just pass on including your software at all.

How tangential a military use would be forbidden? If a hardware
manufacturer uses your software in the design of their hardware and
knows some of the hardware they sell goes to the military, have they
violated the license's terms? What if they are working under contract to
provide a specific graphics card to the military and use your software?
But what if they also provide the graphics card to the general public as
it is useful for climate research? This goes on forever. It's a bad idea.


Julien Fer wrote:
> Hello,
> I am interesting in learning about any open source license with the
> particular feature that it forbids use of the software in any
> military application and within  military institutions.
> Does anyone know of such a license, or if a modifying clause to an
> existing license (ideally GPL) can possibly add this restriction?
> Many thanks for any information,

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