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freshmeat: Use of Open Source Software Should Be Restricted

May 12, 2001, 23:00 (42 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bjorn Gohla)

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This column says it's not enough to enforce the freedom of the software itself... you also need to make sure software isn't being used to deprive others of their freedom (which the author maintains is simply abhorent to any open source developer.) To that extent, he offers up a remedy sure to get discussion going.

So it is possible to turn Free Software against itself and the ethics it stands for (I hold it to be implausible that any Open Source programmer could want this). The possibility is frightening, but if it is possible, someone will do it.

What should be done about it? For a program published under the GPL, the copyright holder could extend the license so that the use of the software shall not infringe on anyone's rights, but how should this restriction be phrased? What would be a reasonable demand? A company denying its employees access to porn sites probably seems reasonable to most, but what about a government doing the same to its citizens?

The best one can hope for is a symbolic move, perhaps a clause appended to the GPL stating that in using the program or any derived work, the user explicitly acknowledges, fully supports, and complies with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (or something similar, to avoid suspicion of moral imperialism).

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