[License-discuss] "Ethical open source" and the Persona Non Grata clause.

Eric S. Raymond esr at thyrsus.com
Mon Feb 24 13:44:42 UTC 2020

I reject the "Persona Non Grata" clause, and all other attempts at
so-called "ethical" open-source licensing, in the strongest possible
terms.  To get entangled in this sort of thing would not merely
be against OSI's charter as expressed in the OSD, it would invite
second- and third-order effects that would be gravely harmful.

This is really what I joined the list to say. The fairness-vs.-mission
issue I discussed in my previous post, though serious, probably
wouldn't have been enough to motivate me in itself.

I initiated the founding of OSI so it could pursue and defend freedom.
Thomas Paine had an apposite quote: "He that would make his own
liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he
violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to

Whatever hypothetical good might be done in individual cases by
denying the use of open-source code to putatively evil persons and
organizations would be swamped by the systemic harm from enabling
people to use open-source licenses in political vendettas.  Because
such precedent, as Paine understood, always comes back to bite you;
there would be no end to the feuds, the divisiveness, and the erosion
of freedom if we went down that path.

Clauses 5 and 6 are in the OSD in part for that reason, and approving
mechanisms to end-run them - such as the Persona Non Grata clause -
would be a direct and egregious violation of OSI's charter and
my intentions in founding OSI. Such clauses are not even a fit topic
for *discussion* here outside of a swift recognition that they are
out of bounds.

With whatever moral authority I still have here, I say to all
advocates of soi-disant "ethical" licensing not just "No" but "To hell
with you *and* the horse you rode in on."
		<a href="http://www.catb.org/~esr/">Eric S. Raymond</a>

As the Founding Fathers knew well, a government that does not trust its honest,
law-abiding, taxpaying citizens with the means of self-defense is not itself
worthy of trust. Laws disarming honest citizens proclaim that the government
is the master, not the servant, of the people.
        -- Jeff Snyder

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