ENOSUCHBLOG

Programming, philosophy, pedaling.


You may not use my projects in a military or law enforcement context

Jun 3, 2020

Tags: programming, devblog

As of yesterday and continuing into today, I will be adding the following rider to the majority of my open-sourced projects:

The following terms additionally apply and override any above terms for
applicable parties:

You may not use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense,
and/or sell copies of the Software in a military or law enforcement context,
defined as follows:

1. A military context is a professional context where the intended application
of the Software is integration or use with or by military software, tools
(software or hardware), or personnel. This includes contractors and
subcontractors as well as research affiliates of any military organization.

2. A law enforcement context is a professional context where the intended
application of the Software is integration or use with or by law enforcement
software, tools (software or hardware), or personnel. This includes
contractors and subcontractors as well as research affiliates of any law
enforcement organization.

Entities that sell or license to military or law enforcement organizations
may use the Software under the original terms, but only in contexts that do
not assist or supplement the sold or licensed product.

Students and academics who are affiliated with research institutions may use
the Software under the original terms, but only in contexts that do not assist
or supplement collaboration or affiliation with any military or law
enforcement organization.

In plain English: if you work for the military (any military) or law enforcement (any law enforcement), you will not be allowed to use my projects in a professional setting. You may continue to use them in a personal setting with no restrictions.

If you work for a company that sells or licenses to a military or law enforcement organization, you may continue to use my projects in professional settings that are not connected to the settings in which you sell or license to those organizations. Just as above, you may continue to use them under their original terms in a personal setting with no restrictions.

If you are a student or academic at a research institution, you may continue to use my projects in professional settings that are not connected to the work of your institution on military or law enforcement contracts or programs. Just as above, you may continue to use them under their original terms in a personal setting with no restrictions.

I’m not a lawyer, and I didn’t consult with one. I have no idea how enforceable this is. You’re welcome to use it as well, provided that you understand that it could be legal nonsense.

“Open source”?

Like all definitions, “open source” is a convention. We get to choose what we make of it1.

I’m okay with calling these terms “permissive” rather than “open,” but I’ll leave that up to others to settle.

What about…?

I am painfully aware of the fact that millions of people are employed by the defense and law enforcement industries, either directly, indirectly, or by proxy. I count myself as one of them.

I am aware that defense and law enforcement are functionally middle-class job programs and are populated primarily by disaffected and myopic, not malicious, individuals. I realize that these industries are frequently highly specialized and that individuals in these industries may feel like they have no other recourse for their livelihoods.

I am also aware that I am a small fry. My (personal) projects are insignificant within the greater pantheon of open source. I will continue to contribute to other projects under their terms, advocating for modification of those terms when I believe it to be appropriate.

I plan to add a badge like this to projects that have been relicensed. My intent is to not sandbag users with new terms.

I act in spite of all of these things. I believe that I have a moral obligation to do so. I believe that it is the least I can do, in the context of my hobby and passion. I will do more.

I’m happy to discuss it with you, reader. My contact information is on my site.


  1. Without wading too deep into the shitfest that is the “open source” vs. “source available” / “commons clause” / SSPL debate: I consider this a more justified restriction on conventionally “open source” terms than restrictions that stem from a desire to profit on a project.