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

Simon Phipps simon at webmink.net
Mon Feb 24 14:10:19 UTC 2020

On Fri, Feb 21, 2020 at 1:29 PM John Cowan <cowan at ccil.org> wrote:

> What the OP is proposing is *not* restrictions.  The license remains free
> and open source.  Since all licenses require that they be preserved intact
> in all modified copies, it is a way to use the license as a virus to spread
> the opinions of the licensor, just as the various FSF licenses do.

However, it might make the license fail OSD #5. In jurisdictions prone to
libel and/or defamation lawsuits, developers might feel they are prevented
from using code that includes a statement which might prove actionable in
their jurisdiction as creating a public derivative would make them a party
to the statement.

Placing matters of opinion about ideology in a preamble is one thing.
Immortalising potentially actionable statements or implications about
individuals and legal entities is quite another.

> My concern with it is that license texts are potentially immortal.
> Suppose the preamble says "John Cowan is a bad, nasty guy and we hate him;
> please avoid him."  Well, in ten years the licensor's opinion of me may
> change, and then what?  And in 100 years, who'll know or care who John
> Cowan was?

I also share the concern several have expressed about the immutability of
the  condemnation. There is no mechanism described for reconciliation and
forgiveness to be expressed.

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