Embargoing certain countries, but still being open source

Ben Tilly btilly at gmail.com
Wed Sep 23 07:16:49 UTC 2009

On Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 11:54 PM, Anton Lauridsen
<anton.lauridsen at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi
> I have a couple of Open Source projects, licensed under BSD, but for
> which I have the complete copyright. I am contemplating to change the
> license into something, which prevents US citizens and/or interests,
> directly or indirectly from using my software.

You may be able to block future versions, but I believe that the
existing versions of your software will remain available under a BSD
license.  Consult with a lawyer (which I am not) to verify that.

> Does such a license already exist? if not, would it still be considered
> open source?

It is trivial to create one.  But any attempt to do so will not meet
OSD #5, no discrimination against persons or groups.

Such software is unlikely to be get adopted.  For example it will not
meet the Debian Free Software guidelines (same reason) so can't be
included in Debian.  Other Linux distributions and the various BSDs
are likely to not wish to carry the software for various practical
reasons.  Furthermore you may be surprised at how many US citizens
live abroad, and therefore how many non-US companies would find it
difficult to use your software.  Said employees are frequently not in
agreement with the actions of the USA, and their employers are not
political entities, but still there is an impact.

I should note that historically attempts to create such restrictions
have lead to bad results.  A classic example is that at one point it
was quite popular to incorporate license terms saying that software
could not be used in South Africa.  Then apartheid fell, and there was
a lot of useful software that still couldn't be used in South Africa,
for which the authors were difficult to track down.

> If such a license does not exist, how do I go about creating one?

Write one and hope a US court will agree to enforce it.  Hiring a
lawyer is likely to improve your chances of that.

> /anton
> ps. this is *not* a troll, and please do not try to argue, that I
> shouldn't do this, the decision has been made, it is merely a matter of
> "how to do this?", not "should I do this?" or "is this right or wrong?"

I wouldn't dream of arguing.  You wrote it, you choose the license.
If you choose a license that causes your software to become
irrelevant, that is entirely up to you.


More information about the License-discuss mailing list