Should open source be ethical?

At present, software licenses that prohibit socially harmful or unethical uses cannot be considered open source. Should we change that?

Should open source be ethical?

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is the governing body of the definition of what it means to be Open Source and which licenses are accepted as Open Source licenses. It coined the modern use of the term “open source” and maintains the Open Source Definition.

Right now there is a group of people who want to take over OSI and change the Open Source Definition to include ethical clauses. These clauses include things such as prohibitions on human rights abuses. Presently such licenses violate the Open Source Definition.

A brief history of open source

Open source is a fork of “free software.” Free software begins with an ethical basis, the four freedoms, which are loosely inspired by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms.” The Open Source Definition (OSD) encodes the same rights as the four freedoms using different terms (read: longer-winded legalese).

One of the four freedoms, for instance, is freedom 0, “The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.” The OSD encodes similar ideas as “The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor” and “The license must be technology-neutral.”

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