[License-discuss] Ethical open source licensing - Persona non Grata Preamble

VanL van.lindberg at gmail.com
Fri Feb 21 15:20:44 UTC 2020

Hello Eric,

This is an interesting contribution to the overall discussion. I like that
you are thinking about things in a way that is explicitly OSD-compliant,
while still trying to advance your goals.

My take is that such a Persona-Non-Grata License (PNGL) would probably not
be OSD-compliant, even if the underlying license was OSD-compliant.

It is true that the GPL family is famous for including a statement of
beliefs. But the difference is that those beliefs are software-centric, and
about the freedoms and permissions that people should have with regard to
the software. It is essentially a declaration of belief in Free Software,
which is not out of line for a FOSS license.

But think about OSD #5, which prohibits discrimination against people or
groups, or OSD #6, prohibiting discrimination against fields of endeavor.
It is true that the PNGL would not vary the permissions granted, but it
would be a clear statement of discrimination against those groups,
including a declaration that they will be treated differently in the
acceptance of contributions.

I also think that it is troubling that forced inclusion of the preamble was
essentially forcing speech on those who may not agree.

Beyond this issue, there seem to be a number of practical concerns:

1. The issue that John Cowan brings up: Is the license preamble immutable?
If so, the PNGL will be shaming a bunch of people for a long time, probably
long past the time when the people have died and/or the companies have
2. If the preamble can be changed, it seems like it would just be part of
overall licensed content. Thus the permissions granted by the license would
allow change and redistribution without the preamble or with a different
3. This seems like it would present a proliferation concern. Is the
PNGL-Oil a different license than the PNGL-ICE? Even if a PNGL was
submitted and approved by the OSI, would the OSI approve all PNGL-family
4. There are people on both sides of most moral questions. You would have
to expect that any effort to make such a statement in a PNGL would be
countered by those with opposite beliefs - a PNGL-Abortion Providers
license, for example.

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