[License-discuss] Ethical open source licensing - Persona non Grata Preamble
brian at behlendorf.com
Fri Feb 21 19:26:25 UTC 2020
On Fri, 21 Feb 2020, Jim Jagielski wrote:
>> On Feb 20, 2020, at 9:16 PM, Eric Schultz <eric at wwahammy.com> wrote:
>> Instead I've been thinking through ways in which licensing and ethical FOSS community policies can interact in order to discourage and shame morally corrupt users.
> So who defines who is "morally corrupt"? Who exactly is a "bad actor"? What is "evil"?
The licensors define that, in their preamble. You don't have to agree.
I would likely never use such a license on my software, I would strongly
avoid writing code that depended upon such a license when writing my own,
and I would probably prefer to use software licensed otherwise.
But, that is true for many other certified Open Source licenses.
Likelihood of widespread adoption has never been a formal criteria for
certification, aside from proliferation and inadvertant duplication
concerns. Back when the open source software world was much smaller, and
we were still struggling for acceptance, and we really did want every
company large and small to be a part of the revolution, then a big tent
was called for by some (permissive) and a principled stand by others
(copyleft). This is a different sort of principled stand, one likely to
repel even more people than copyleft depending on the non Gratas, but I
struggle to see how it's any less valid than copyleft.
I am struck by the brilliance of the self-shaming aspect of this - that
ICE would be free to use this software, but would have to redistribute
ICE-shaming sentence if they redistributed or derived works from it.
Unless I'm misunderstanding though, such text would not have to be
displayed in the user interface or if deployed over the network, only
where such copyright notices are usually displayed. Rarely does that make
its way to end-users. So there's a flaw in this that may require
patching-over with an AGPL-like requirement to display or offer the
license text in any end-user UI. But even then, that's not disqualifying.
Clearly this is not a license you would expect to see mass adopted for
lower levels of the stack - operating systems, network daemons, databases
- or mainstram end-user software like a web browser. But if I had just
pulled together (through a training set + algorithms) a pretty great
facial recognition system, I'd give this license serious thought -
especially if I thought I could get a critical mass of other
facial-recognition developers & researchers on board with a particular set
of non-Gratas, such that an alternate engine more permissively licensed
would struggle to compete. But I'd have to also concede that Bad Actors
are unlikely to be persuaded by (or even read?) the terms of such a
license, or would figure out how to route around any redisplay
requirements. But the symbolism and signalling would be compelling, a step
up from a bumper sticker or t-shirt.
One more practical and probably negative impact: it will always be easier
to add new names than to remove old ones, because adding new names is a
simple sublicense that can be done by anyone, but removing a name will
require a relicense with the consent of every contributor who contributed
under that license. So, in my facial-recognition example, I would likely
as for assignment of the right to relicense from any contributor, so that
I might be able to remove a name once they've cleaned up their act.
Otherwise a list that can only grow becomes an embarrassment and
ineffective at actually changing behavior, it just becomes a howl in the
night. But centralizing IP (rather than a mere right to redistribute a la
DCO / CLA) is something I think we've done well to avoid.
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