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commit 62dab5661e00034ed85e954056fcbbb0f87ce3d3
parent 96e6f7b720f3c889e3e81aaa106928bd0a161d34
Author: Jake Bauer <>
Date:   Thu, 27 Apr 2023 14:34:39 -0400

Update ethical license section

Mcontent/garden/ | 84++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++-------------
1 file changed, 71 insertions(+), 13 deletions(-)

diff --git a/content/garden/ b/content/garden/ @@ -71,7 +71,7 @@ unnecessary language. <p class="note">This section is somewhat inflammatory, but it's so frustrating to witness so much incompetence I think it's only appropriate that you read my -unfiltered thoughts.<p> +unfiltered thoughts.</p> The ISC license states: @@ -130,18 +130,76 @@ Software](/a-critique-of-free-software) and [Free Software is an Abject Failure](/blog/free-software-is-an-abject-failure) for more on this topic and my stance. -## "Ethical" Licenses +## Ethical Licenses + +<p class="note">Much of what I write here is a counter to <a +href="">6 +myths about “ethical” open source licenses</a>.</p> + +These are licenses that attempt to control how one can use software based on +the particular prejudices of the author(s). They say things like "this must not +be used by corporations that manufacture machines for the purpose of war" or +"this software may not be used for evil." An example is the customizable +[Hippocratic License]( and the [JSON +License]( + +They are, practically, only useful in the same way Copyleft licenses are +useful. That is to say, they might [scare +a corporation]( away from using something, but +they largely don't achieve anything actually meaningful compared to permissive +licenses. In fact, they're more likely to create a messier open source +ecosystem than anything else. + +Even if a corporation is scared away from a particular piece of software by an +ethical license, it's typically not much trouble for them to make their own, +proprietary version of whatever functionality they wanted. It's especially not +that hard for the largest corporations and governments, which also tend to be +the most evil. Except now instead of being able to benefit from common security +improvements or bugfixes, compatibility with the functionality already +implemented by FOSS software, and so on, they now have their own separate, +likely siloed implementation which will have its own set of vulnerabilities and +issues that they may or may not care about fixing to the same degree or level +of quality as an open source implementation. [Sidenote: I'd love to find more +examples of this to strengthen this argument.] This is the issue that +permissive licenses avoid, and one of the stronger arguments for using such +licenses instead. + +<p class="note">While I'm very much against software monocultures, I also don't +particularly want to see a world where there are five different implementations +of a "SQL database", for example, that all call purport to implement the SQL +specification yet have <a +href="">different +quirks and incompatibilities between them</a> such that you can't, for example, +migrate from a proprietary SQL database to a PostgreSQL database without +rewriting the SQL statements used in your code.</p> + +Not to mention that it's usually really difficult, if not impossible, to +actually comply with many Ethical licenses. While some are written well such +that it's pretty cut and dry what you can use the software for, others are not. +Take this from the original JSON license for example: -These are licenses that attempt to control how one can use software without any -real basis in law or reality. They say things like "this must not be used by -corporations that manufacture machines for the purpose of war" or "this -software may not be used for evil." An example is the customizable [Hippocratic -License]( +``` +The Software shall be used for Good, not Evil. +``` -They are, practically, just proprietary source-available licenses that don't -achieve anything actually meaningful. The issues they purport to address are -societal issues that are not fixable with a software license. It's also pretty -easy for a corporation to just ignore the license, similar to how many use the -GPL, but with even less backing for individual devs to fight lawsuits against -license violators (if they even bother with that). +who can say what is good versus what evil? This would likely be up to the +creator of the software, but is that even enforceable? If it's not enforceable +(many say that enforceability is not even the point), and companies are largely +not affected by it because they can just make their own thing or ignore the +license entirely, then what is the point? From my point of view, this is +largely just posturing. + +In summary, the issues that ethical licenses purport to address are societal +issues that are not appropriately addressed using software licensing or the +copyright system. Plus, it's also pretty easy for a corporation to just ignore +the license, similar to how many use the GPL, but with even less backing for +individual devs to fight lawsuits against license violators (if they even +bother with that). + +Just like with many copyleft licenses, this seems good on its face, but breaks +down in the real world. Ethical licenses put a larger burden on individual +developers compared to corporations while attacking a very real problem from +the wrong angle. If you really don't want evil organizations to use your +software, it's far more effective to [write stuff that isn't useful to them in +the first place]().