[License-discuss] documentation on un-enforceability of ethical licenses? (was Re: License Review Request - Anu Initiative

Bruce Perens bruce at perens.com
Wed Feb 7 05:34:26 UTC 2024

This is really very simple. Nations are sovereign powers. You can read up
on what a sovereign power is. They have to agree to be sued. To make a
license that would stop Putin from bombing Ukraine would require the
existence of a god who enforced licenses.

Within a nation you can to some degree enforce rules against munitions
contractors. This will end up in something I'm working on, to the joy of
the ethical crowd, but not for the reason they would want it.

Both ITAR and EAR have carve outs for open source due to lawsuits. The
carve outs specifically mention information in the public domain. This is
not public domain in the copyright sense, but the opposite of trade secret.
So technically we can share anything we want with North Korea. And that
makes Open Source possible for anything that is on the munitions list in
ITAR 121, because how could we keep North Korea from downloading? These
"munitions" include ultra low bandwith digital voice CODECs and satellite
ground stations, both Open Source projects I'm involved with in the amateur
radio community.

The problem comes up when some military contractor pops up on the mailing
list of an Open Source project. If you answer them, you might be rendering
defense services, and suddenly your project is subject to ITAR and EAR.

The best way to protect from that is simply to rule that use out in the
license. Which would obviously not meet the OSD.

On Tue, Feb 6, 2024, 22:41 Roland Turner via License-discuss <
license-discuss at lists.opensource.org> wrote:

> On 6/2/24 23:39, Stefano Maffulli wrote:
> Question for the wider group: Can you point me to a document (legal or
> otherwise) that argues the unenforceability of ethical clauses, like these
> ones?
> Not on unenforceability but on harm to F/OSS communities, I spoke on The
> critical importance of use-neutrality in F/OSS licensing
> <https://rolandturner.com/sots/> at SOTS 2020
> - Roland
> _______________________________________________
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