A beastiary of ethical-licenses

I’ve been surveying ethical licenses lately. Here are some I’ve found with note. If I miss any anyone knows about please add it. They are currently in no particular order.

It goes without saying the vast majority of these do not count as free/libre or open source. Though the vast majority of them do share free/libre/open source values. The FSF’s official stance of licenses of this ilk can be read about here and here.

I’d prefer to keep FLOSS like licenses concerned with funding models without ethical concerns off this list. I consider things like license-zero a kind of fundamentally different taxonomy.

Hacktivismo Enhanced-Source Software License Agreement

  • Co-written by Lawyers at the EFF and was written with an eye to be legally enforcible.
    • Protect human rights.
    • Prohibits spying on the user
    • Interesting government accountability clause.
    • Employs copyleft-esque strategy.

JSON License

  • Is a MIT style with a single clause prohibiting evil.
    • Seeks to prohibit evil.
    • Designed to mock corporate lawyers.
    • Seemingly more effective than it’s detractors would have one believe; as IBM payed for an exception to the license, to do evil.

Anti Fascist MIT License

Do No Harm License

  • Derrived from 3 clause BSD, though it’s most recent incarnation it’s pretty verbose.
    • Seeks to prevent software for a variety of endeavors which the authors consider harmfull. Including human rights abuses, drugs, war, nuclear energy, environmental concerns, hate speach, totalitarianism, etc.

Hippocratic license

  • Based, but now highly deviated from the MIT license. Most recent versions have undergone legal review with an eye to enforcibility.
    • Seeks to prevent software from being used in any activity that would substantially infringe on human rights, as defined by the UN.
    • v1.1 has a kind of elegance that I wish could be practically used.
    • Is seeking OSI approval. They have an interesting strategy here of dancing around freedom zero, by legally restrciting activities and not endeavors. Not sure if it will scrape by. I should investigate the OSI listserv on this thing more.
    • Copyleft variant is in progress.

The (Cooperative) Non-Violent Public License

  • GPL esque license with an upgrade clause. It comes in two variants. The NPL and the CNPL. The CNPL limits use to individuals and worker owned organizaitons.
    • Seeks to protect prevent use of the software in action of violence. Violence is widely defined possibly in an anarchist since against most forms of subjugation and abuse of power. While widely defined the license includes lots of specifics.
    • Employs copyleft.

The Anti-Capitalist Software License

  • BSD 3 clause style with additional clause to prevent capitalist exploitation.
    • Seeks to limit software to individuals, non-profit organizations and worker owned orgs.

Vaccine License

  • GPL esque license, with a pro-vaccination bent.
    • Requires user to vaccinate themselves and any children, and to promote vaccination in their organization to fully extent possible, barring genuine medical complications with vaccination.
    • Argues that it meets the OSD and should qualify for OSI approval. Similar to hippocratic license.
    • Employs copyleft.

A post was split to a new topic: wikifying posts

Do ethical licenses mean anything outside of web development, where your concerned about someone else duplicating your work for their infrastructure? I suddenly realize well mulling thoughts this morning that I don’t quite grok how a fascist is supposed to realize their not supposed to be using a piece of software software. Most package managers / software ecosystems don’t telegraph licenses let along license meanings.

Like lets say you made a game under the anti-fascist license and put it up for pay what you want on I guess one would have to advertise “not for fascists” on the actual page right?

How many points of distribution allow that? Would flathub be okay with a flatpak for example? I mean they carry proprietary softare in flathub? What is flathub’s policies about that sort of thing anyway?

Software distribution is weird.

1 Like

I use CC0 because it’s very difficult to not use a license with capitalism, and all other licenses I know of require the threat of violence to work. In this case, I mean compelling compliance under threat of contract law, where the local government agency gets involved and interferes with a person.

Also, I know enough about what a fascist is to be comfortable making a judgement call for personal reasons, but making rules about rules of fascism seems like a games I’d lose to some fucking fascist trolling the system. That’s like a practical concern, I suppose.

In my opinion a license is ultimately a signal for how something should be used. Signals are easier to understand that the simpler the data need. For instance, it’s easy to say something is more A/L/GPL-like versus Apache/MIT/BSD-like, if all you need to know if the “copyleftness” of a license. But you ask a question about patents or some other license arcana and that comparison is too simplified.

With that in mind: how we gonna signal to folks “no fascists allowed”? Hmmm, I suppose I’d describe it as an underdeveloped concept that’s building now (in the projects you’ve listed, of course), but it’s not going to be easy to explain, and I’m not sure I trust the people who think about software licenses to design that well, because software licenses are a product of capitalism… yeah, I kinda spelled out to myself, nope, I don’t think they mean anything.

That sounds negative, but I feel great sorting my thoughts on this, and want to hear from others. :slight_smile:

To answer my own questions, after mulling on this more today. I think part of this wierd dichotomy of being unable to control distribution is why some of these licenses target behaviors/activites with the software as opposed to specific groups. Might be wise to note that more clearly with some of these licenses.

Flathubs supports any SPDX license I think looking at it’s docs. So that makes a few of these fair game. And the rest too as long as they dont infringe on redistribution. Again that activity versus user focus.

I do think the signaling works in multiple directions too. “No fascists allowed” / “No capitalists allowed” are one such possible signals. The other side of the coin is “Some things are more important than freedom 0”.

1 Like

Depends on the scope of “signal…no fascists allowed”:

  • to participate in a community (such as one that makes and supports some software): advertise and enforce an appropriate code of conduct. If enforced, should be substantial impact on participation by fascists: participation is what community has most control over. Zero, likely even positive impact on non-fascist participation.
  • to use some software: no-use-by-fascists license? Presumably negative impact on use by fascists, but on the other hand few people consider themselves fascists, and those who do may not have copyright license compliance top of mind. Also negative impact on use by non-fascists (unless one defines anyone unwilling to use under no-use-by-fascists terms to be a fascist).
  • fascists generally unwelcome: anti-fascist (express, or merely promotion of things fascists dislike) messaging associated with some software or community around some software, e.g., statements, messaging in UI, names. Impacts: highly variable based on artfulness of messaging?

Misc thoughts! :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like