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

Richard Fontana rfontana at redhat.com
Fri Feb 21 21:04:20 UTC 2020

On Thu, Feb 20, 2020 at 9:45 PM Eric Schultz <eric at wwahammy.com> wrote:

> The idea for the Persona non Grata Preamble came from the preamble in the GPL families of license and ideas I have around excluding bad actors from communities using an advanced Code of Conduct. In this idea, a community would add a preamble to an existing license. In the preamble, the license would include statements from the community about their values, who is not welcome in their community, such as fascists, ICE collaborators, organizations who take but never give back, oil and gas companies and others. In more aggressive cases, the preamble could list the bad actors and even make statements about why they are excluded from the community. (This is where the name Persona non Grata Preamble comes from).

First, thanks for starting this discussion. My reaction is that I see
a big difference between a preamble that talks about values and
sufficiently general or abstract descriptions of who is not welcome in
a community , and what you call "more aggressive" cases that actually
name particular bad actors. I could see the former category as being
consistent with what I think of as open source or OSD-conformant
*maybe*, in some cases, but probably not the latter.

A license that has a preamble that singles out a particular
individual, or organization, or even a specifically-described group,
might have the effect of discouraging exercise of the
nominally-granted license permissions by the singled-out
person/entity/group. I mean, I think that is actually one of your
goals, right? There was a recent Twitter discussion of badgeware
licenses. One of the problems with badgeware licenses, brought up by
people on this mailing list long ago, was that their "attribution"
requirements were actually calculated to discourage the licensee from
exercising the derivative work right. I see a related problem with
this proposal -- though again it seems to me it depends on how general
the category of called-out person is.

> As is relevant to this list, this preamble, while shaming and discouraging evil orgs, would be written in a way which does not add any binding obligations on the community or users. By doing so, it fully complies with the OSD and FSD.

This is the assertion I would take issue with, for at least some of
the kinds of licenses you're imagining.

> 7. Is the net-benefit sufficient to any additional risk for marginalized people? This list absolutely cannot decide this but it's relevant enough to need to discuss this. If this mechanism becomes common, there is a distinct risk that marginalized people could be added to these persona non grata lists. In cases of harassment, legally or otherwise, this would lead to these individuals being put into a document where they could not easily be removed. As an examples, queer people particularly in countries with anti-queer laws, or sexual assault survivors. Undoubtedly, these lists could be added to licenses right now.

They could, but would such licenses be OSI-approvable? I'd assume and
hope not. I guess you're assuming that they would be, since there's no
obvious objective principle to explain why (for lack of a better
label) "progressive" persona-non-grata-preamble licenses are
acceptable from an OSD-conformance perspective, but anti-progressive
ones aren't -- similar to a concern I have about some of the ethical
source licenses.

Overall, I think this is a pretty bad idea, at least for preambles
that take the "aggressive" approach, which I assume would attract the
most interest.


Richard Fontana
He / Him / His
Senior Commercial Counsel
Red Hat, Inc.

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