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Christophe Colombier
Christophe Colombier

Posted on

Ethical source movement, or how to try to fight the evil corporation to use your code

source :

This post was made on stack overflow blog by

David Gray Widder is a PhD Student in Software Engineering at Carnegie Mellon, and has studied challenges software engineers face related to trust and ethics in AI at NASA, Microsoft Research, and Intel Labs. You can follow his work or share what you thought about this article on Twitter at @davidthewid.https://twitter.com/davidthewid

I found the article interesting enough to share it.

I received it via stack overflow newsletter.

https://stackoverflow.blog/newsletter/

What does the article is about ?

The Ethical Source Movement seeks to use software licenses and other tools to give developers β€œthe freedom and agency to ensure that our work is being used for social good and in service of human rights.” This view emphasizes the rights of developers to have a say in what the fruits of their labor are used for over the rights of any user to use the software for anything. There are a myriad of different licenses: some prohibit software from being used by companies that overwork developers in violation of labor laws, while others prohibit uses that violate human rights or help extract fossil fuels...

I cannot say more without copy pasting the article which would be wrong.

Free and open-source software licenses remove your ability to control what others do with your code. That’s kind of the point. It’s also why they’re so popular: anyone can use, remix, and sell your code into new technological possibilities with little restriction! What could go wrong?

Read it on the author blog.

Top comments (8)

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incrementis profile image
Akin C.

Hello Christoph Colombier,

Thank you for sharing this article and crediting the original author.
I read the whole article and it contains some strong arguments and I believe it is politically charged which gives the topic a lot to discuss.

I think the hardest part is monitoring license abuse since almost the whole world can use open source projects. However, this should not prevent anyone (e.g. the project owner) from demanding correct use of the license.

The legal and political situation is also different in every country, e.g. not every country has human rights as fundamental rights. In this case, misuse is possible without consequences.

"Free and open-source software licenses remove your ability to control what others do with your code."
Yes, and that's no shame. Such a license does not emphasize criminal use per se.

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ccoveille profile image
Christophe Colombier Author

I agree with you. The article is politically charged, but I would say that copy left and free software is also a political decision.

Richard Stalman and other were looked like freaks when not considered as communists.

I found the article interesting enough to share it.

I think that having tge ability to talk about license and how evil corps use them.

By evil corps, I also include huge companies that require maintenance from open sources developers and maintainers, considering them as third party as if they were resellers while paying nothing.

It's a good thing to debate about this, I agree with you it's complex. Local laws are also making things more complicated, when not impossible.

But I find this movement as a proof free software is living, open to debate and start to be mature.

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geraldew profile image
geraldew

So far, the chief misunderstanding that comes from the Ethical Source camp is their imagination that copyright law can enforce compliance with things other than copyright.

For that is what all the various current Free Software and Open Source licenses are able to achiieve. It is the "trick" of using copyright law to enforce freedom of use by embedding the license statement into the copyrighted work. The reason this works so widely is mainly due to the nearly complete uniformity of copyright laws around the world.

To be frank, while the ideals of FSF and OSI have their own worthiness, they would be mere wishful thinking without the ability to bend copyright law to the purpose.

As simple examples, two other aspects of so-called "Intellectual Property" law that licenses alone cannot enforce are patents and trademarks. While some licenses attempt this, the laws involved are far more varied internationally and the legal concepts are different enough to not be so clearly bound by merely having statement text embedded in the work.

This isn't to decry the intentions of the Ethical Source proponents, but as long as they fantasise that Free and Open Source licenses are part of the problem then they are perhaps only performing a kind of displacement activity.

p.s. in looking at their web site, sadly I still see nothing of substance, only a list of their principles about themselves, and a list of licenses that they don't yet endorse. Not a criticism as such, all things must have beginnings, and that organisation dates from around December, 2020. Interestingly, there is a (quite?) separate and longstanding movement of "ethical sourcing" in the world outside of software - showing that, as always, naming these concepts uniquely is itself a tricky matter.

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him)

Appreciate ya sharing this post in the way ya did! Nice job embedding it and giving credit to the author. Sounds like an interesting topic... I'm gonna check out the post in just a wee bit.

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ccoveille profile image
Christophe Colombier Author

Thanks. I'm doing my best to respect people's work, thanks for noticing it.

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him) • Edited on

Ooo absolutely! I could tell you were being super intentional about it. Major props for that! πŸ™Œ

Also, I read through the post ya linked to and I'm really happy I did. I was speaking with a colleague about this subject recently and talking through how we might be able to prevent someone using our FOSS community building software, Forem, from building a community that goes against our values.

I definitely think this is worth looking into further. I think it's completely reasonable for a creator to want to make their code generally free and open for use but limit some of the ways in which their creation might be used. There really should be a process for this and it's encouraging to hear that some folks are exploring ways to make this happen!

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bwca profile image
Volodymyr Yepishev • Edited on

The big corporations would have no problem writing to their own version of whatever they see in your open source. Hence it's meaningless.
So the only ones affected would be average Joes, who'd be facing some kind of ToS in open source.

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