[License-discuss] Thoughts on the subject of ethical licenses

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Mar 9 01:45:58 UTC 2020

Quoting Russell Nelson (nelson at crynwr.com):

> On 3/6/20 7:22 PM, Coraline Ada Ehmke wrote:
> >“Hostile takeover” is not a goal of the Ethical Source Movement.
> Yes, it is. The Ethical Source Definition is hostile to the Open
> Source Definition -- that's why you want to change it. 

Without commenting on this exchange of claim/counterclaim, Russell, I
wish to point out something that, remarkably, nobody else here appears
to have commented on:  Ms. Ehmke's Ethical Source Definition, which is
published at https://ethicalsource.dev/definition/ , as written,
encompasses quite a broad cross-section of _proprietary code_:

Nothing in it even tries to articulate the right of third-party
recipients to independently develop and continue a covered codebase --
which (along with the right to use it and derivative works for any
purpose without fee) is the core concept of both open source and of free
software.  Members of the Ethical Source Working Group are apparently
perfectly fine with covered codebases becoming unmaintainable because
the founding developer ceased work and refused to authorise others to
take over under an adequate rights grant.  That is, of course, their
right, as it is the right of proprietary software communities generally.
However, this notion that the two definitions are even slightly alike
let alone sharing general aims seems... contrary to plain text evidence.

In that context, speaking of using covered code and derivative works for
any purpose without fee, it seems minor (but also significant) to
mention that ESD #5 ('Creators have the right to solicit reasonable
compensation from any commercial entity that benefits from the
software') clashes fundamentally with another one of OSD's key
principles, stated in OSD#1 ('The license shall not restrict any party
from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate
software distribution containing programs from several different
sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such
sale.')  Which, IMO, once again reflects a proprietary-code mindset 
that is contrary to OSI's goals.

I submit that these are not trivial differences, but rather quite
profound ones, and people here are certainly welcome to wish Ethical
Source Working Group luck in their endeavours, but the gaping chasm
between the efforts' fundamental natures (setting aside rhetorical
broadsides about motives) ought to be carefully noted.  Ms. Ehmke's 
group is _not_ about open source.  Her painstakingly drafted document
tells us so, right there in plain language.

Ms. Ehmke's (separately mentioned) desire to water down OSD#6 ('No
Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor') if elected to OSI's Board in
service of ideological goals seems to have drawn most of the attention,
but my point is that that's the smallest part of the matter.

Cheers,                          "Maybe the law ain't perfect, but it's the only
Rick Moen                        one we got, and without it we got nuthin'."
rick at linuxmafia.com              -- U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves, circa 1875
McQ! (4x80)        

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