Brussels / 1 & 2 February 2020


Bringing back ethics to open source

Most discussions around ethical licenses today consider the Open Source Definition (OSD) with the same reverence as Moses did the tablets delivered to him on Mount Sinai.

The OSD is in fact much more mundane than that. And it tells us more about its authors than about the open source movement in general; had open source been born in less privileged circles, ethical considerations would have been baked in from the start.

With that in mind, let's revisit what we're actually trying to collectively achieve through the open source movement and reconsider the notion that its mission requires we allow the software we build be used in violation of Human Rights.

There are minimally-disruptive changes that can be made to the OSD and to existing licenses which would puth ethical concerns centerstage, where they belong, and help us foster responsibility and accountability within our community and within software vendors.

We'll look at the past attempts at creating ethical licenses and why they have failed. We'll ask all of the hard questions, even those we don't have good answers to yet. And we'll propose a new, multi-pronged approach to this issue. One that we believe, while more demanding to implement, has a much better chance of success than previous attempts have had.


Photo of Tobie Langel Tobie Langel