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The Ethical Source Movement Launches a New Kind of Open-Source Organization

ZDNet takes a look at a new nonprofit group called the Organization for Ethical Source (OES):

The OES is devoted to the idea that the free software and open-source concept of “Freedom Zero” are outdated. Freedom Zero is “the freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.” It’s fundamental to how open-source software is made and used… They hate the notion that open-source software can be used for any purpose including “evil” purposes. The group states:

The world has changed since the Open Source Definition was created — open source has become ubiquitous, and is now being leveraged by bad actors for mass surveillance, racist policing, and other human rights abuses all over the world. The OES believes that the open-source community must evolve to address the magnitude and complexity of today’s social, political, and technological challenges…

How does this actually work in a license…?

The Software shall not be used by any person or entity for any systems, activities, or other uses that violate any Human Rights Laws. “Human Rights Laws” means any applicable laws, regulations, or rules (collectively, “Laws”) that protect human, civil, labor, privacy, political, environmental, security, economic, due process, or similar rights….

This latest version of the license was developed in collaboration with a pro-bono legal team from Corporate Accountability Lab (CAL). It has been adopted by many open-source projects including the Ruby library VCR; mobile app development tool Gryphon; Javascript mapping library react-leaflet; and WeTransfer’s entire open-source portfolio

The organization adds, though, the license’s most significant impact may be the debate it sparked between ethical-minded developers and open-source traditionalists around the primacy of Freedom Zero.
The article includes this quote from someone described as an open source-savvy lawyer.

“To me, ethical licensing is a case of someone with a very small hammer seeing every problem as a nail, and not even acknowledging that the nail is far too big for the hammer.”

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