Revisiting Open Source in The New Decade | Hacker Noon

Andrew Magdy Kamal Hacker Noon profile picture

Lots of times, companies that are hailed as heroes of open source often do things that violate human rights or go severely against freedom. These can range from predatory practices and anti-repair designs to even using child labor in third world countries.

That is why I created the OPNL and OPNL-2. I also created the Future Web Standards as being pro-moderation and anti-censorship in nature. The point of OPNL isn’t to establish moral guidelines or ethical restrictions on anybody. In-fact, hypothetically one can still be entirely unethical and use the OPNL. The point of OPNL is to start talking about ethics in technology, and start thinking about what certain pieces of technology is being redistributed or used for.

Outside of these things, I have also started the Non-Dubious Patent Movement. NDPM as I would call it, is a pro-patent and anti-patent troll approach to software patents. This is as opposed to and in response to the End Software Patents movement or ESP.

Many people are heavily against the idea of promoting ethics within open-source. This is even when it is non-restrictive. I am not even the first person to think of this concept, as there has already been the Ethical Source Movement.

A big aspect of open source is being collaborative and open. However, I feel that organizations like OSI are so tied to philosophy on paper over practice. True, they may accuse me or others of doing the same thing. A big problem is the OSD, or “Open Source Definition” as inspired by the Debian project. In fact, it is pretty much the Debian Free Software Guidelines or DFSG.

Some argue that the idea of people having to agree at goodwill is morally restrictive. However, I would argue that humans have free will and the concept of wanting to explicitly use technology for violating humanity kinda seems to go against the principles of what open source is supposed to be about.

However, with OPNL-2, I removed the goodwill clause (which by the way is (non-binding) and explicitly had my views as a personal statements. Since, it was a preamble or mission statement, OPNL-2 doesn’t really have a case as being restrictive. However, there is still somewhat of a feud on having mission statements and preambles on open source licenses.

I want to state that I view my license(s) as open source and completely allowing for open source regardless of the person’s moral stance. However, the explicit mention of ethics brings about the importance of talking about ethics in tech. This is important in the age of companies that are receiving praise during outmost hypocrisy.

Facebook had to pay $5 billion dollars for privacy concerns, Microsoft seemed to want to block Right to Repair, and Google explicitly seemed to go against Android forks.

All these companies had privacy concerns in the past. Similar things have been said about Twitter, Apple and Samsung.

A big thing these companies all seem to have in common though, are many of them are funding open source initiatives or have commonly used open source libraries. Microsoft even owns GitHub. While many of these companies do some good, there is a lot of improvement that can be done. The point of talking about ethics in tech at this standpoint shouldn’t be ignored.

Many of the same people pocketing money from organizations that have went against the core principles of open source are some of the same people who are against talking about ethics in open source. The OSD in itself have been used against its intended purpose and became its own philosophical and moral guideline. Many people are more interested in how conforming they are to the OSD over how they go about allowing for software to be redistributed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still all for proprietary tech, which is why I created NDPM. Some companies can have software that is open and software that is closed. However, there is a difference between having software that is closed and having software that is open while creating restrictions on non-proprietary software or other people’s rights. Many forms of research strive on being protected.

I believe the OSD is still great, and I still even think that arguably my licenses confine to the OSD and are non-restrictive. I feel arguing against involves loose logical loopholes. However, I still think that the OSD could use some improvement.

Trying to stay that you can’t discriminate against people’s endeavors, and then using that logic to want to protect evil people or people wanting to utilize software for restrictive purposes is self-contradictory. There are various ways you can make certain parts of the OSD contradict one another, and one doesn’t seem to be looking at the big picture when reviewing licenses.

Nonetheless, I think the OSI still does some good as well as other open source organizations surrounding it. However, they have better things to do then worry about how software can be viewed as restrictive towards explicitly evil people. I think the time for change is now, and as I said prior, both my OPNL licenses aren’t really restrictive in that manner from a legal standpoint.


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