I have had some interesting discussion on the creativecommons freenode channel, that I’ll copy here:
[08:54] <barnie> hi! i am not an expert in open-source licenses, but interested in creating a license (or extension): For Ethical Use Only
[08:54] <barnie> does such license already exist (couldn't find anything that comes close till now)
[08:56] <barnie> on the recently founded Center of Humane Technology i started a discussion on this topic: https://community.humanetech.com/t/idea-extending-oss-licenses-for-ethical-use-only/544
[08:56] <barnie> curious to hear an experts' opinion :)
[09:39] <ccbot1> <jure> @barnie: you can serch for different discussions that occurred around JSLint's 'no evil' clause: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JSLint#License
[09:55] <barnie> jure: thank you, i'll have a look :)
[09:56] <barnie> jure: though 'no evil' to me sounds different than ethical.. but i'm a novice at this :D
[09:58] <ccbot1> <jure> @barnie: it's a different perspective. If you look at debian-legal, they argue that the license should define what is evil. In your context you would have to define what is ethical, which is not entirely obvious since it similarly depends on point of view.
[09:59] <ccbot1> <jure> @barnie: for jslint, it meant that these restrictions made the license non-free as it had additional restrictions that restricted freedoms of their users (but I guess this is the exact point of your license)
[10:06] <barnie> yes, thank you, it would probably be non-free by definition. I read the discussion.. guess 'ethical' is almost as hard to define as 'not evil'
[10:08] <barnie> some of the reasons that The Center for Humane Technology was founded include that software is used in non-ethical ways (social networks making people addicted to their use, collecting all kinds of data for obscure commercial reasons without the users full consent (not knowing the extent of data collection), etc.
[10:09] <barnie> this general trend worries me.. and I would like to open-source code that cannot be used in these kinds of ways
[17:04] <gwolf> barnie: It's a _bad_ idea. Look for the controversy surrounding the Douglas Crockford licensing on JSLint
[17:05] <gwolf> That license has attracted several adopters, but it's been determined as non-free by many others (including a group as large as Debian)
[17:06] <gwolf> http://apebox.org/wordpress/rants/456http://apebox.org/wordpress/rants/456
[17:06] <gwolf> https://bugs.php.net/bug.php?id=63520
[17:06] <gwolf> https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3695270
[17:06] <gwolf> https://github.com/jshint/jshint/issues/1234
[17:07] <gwolf> https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/42850
[17:07] <gwolf> And many more :)
[20:24] <barnie> gwolf: thank you for the infos. yes, i read some of the discussion on the JSLint license.. will check your resources..
[20:29] <barnie> i agree with the arguments in the 1st resource, i.e. it makes it a non-free license and cannot effectively be used without the risk for legal action.. but isn't that because the clause "The Software shall be used for Good, not Evil" is just too short
[20:31] <barnie> in a license For Ethical Use Only there should be a more elaborate discussion on what constitutes ethical use and/or describe circumstances that are clearly unethical and are prohibited
[20:32] <barnie> btw. if you have a creativecommons license that is for non-commercial use only.. doesn't that make it a non-free license as well?
[20:33] <barnie> if that's the case i wouldn't mind if the For Ethical Use Only license was non-free.. but it should be clearly defined
[20:34] <barnie> if an organization or project has a Code of Ethics you should also be able to determine whether this code is breached.. or it is useless
[20:35] <gwolf> Yes, CC Non-Commercial and Non-Derivative licenses are non-free
[20:35] <gwolf> according to many definitions
[20:35] <barnie> ah, ok
[20:36] <gwolf> it depends on your goals, after all ☺ I personally think an "Ethical License" opens for far more abuses than good use cases
[20:36] <gwolf> and it's... all depending on who is judging
[20:36] <barnie> i don't agree with the Debian statement (or the argument in the article) that code with that license is not Open Source.. after all the source is open, for anyone to view
[20:37] <barnie> just Debian doesn
[20:37] <barnie> doesn't define it as such anymore
[20:37] <gwolf> view ≠ use, modify, adapt, redistribute
[20:38] <barnie> yea, agree
[20:38] <gwolf> I mentioned Debian because ① I am a Debian Developer and it deeply influences me, and ② it's a very well-recognized free software body worldwide, so its decisions have quite a bit of impact
[20:38] <barnie> i am newby at this and by no means a lawyer.. just frustrated how OSS software can be used for all kinds of nefarious uses
[20:39] <gwolf> but yes, there are differences in worldviews...
I was pointed in the direction of the JSON license by Gray Marchiori, on the cool Programmers Oath project who wrote this regarding ethical licensing:
To answer some of your questions from the original discussion - yes, it has been done.
Short and sweet: the JSON licence.
There were earlier and more complex alternatives, including no-nukes licences, and licences that banned use by military or certain other options.
As I’m sure you’ve discovered while looking into this concept, those licences are explicitly non-free, and depending on definition may not be considered ‘open source’. There is no way to work around those limitations, because the definitions explicitly prohibit discrimination of use.
It would be good to see a more comprehensively thought out creation - perhaps as a ‘patch’ that could be applied to existing free licences? Definitely worthy of a github repo. One risk; an Oath is a humanistic agreement and any human can meaningfully contribute. A licence is a legal agreement and it would be unwise to use a licence not drafted or inspected by some very well qualified and probably expensive lawyers.
So from these discussions it leads that - for ethical licenses to be successful in any way - there should be a clear legal description on what constitutes ethical and what is prohibited. And important is that it should not be too restrictive, describing general cases that can be broadly applied.
Seems we are in need of expert opinions of those involved with ethics and legal issues surrounding them!! Anyone here??