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[ox-en] Open source project adds "no military use" clause to the GPL

Open source project adds "no military use" clause to the GPL
Monday August 14, 2006 (04:01 PM GMT)
By: Tina Gasperson

GPU is a Gnutella client that creates ad-hoc supercomputers by
allowing individual PCs on the network to share CPU resources with
each other. That's intriguing enough, but the really interesting thing
about GPU is the license its developers have given it. They call it a
"no military use" modified version of the GNU General Public License

Tiziano Mengotti and Rene Tegel are the lead developers on the GPU
project. Mengotti is the driving force behind the license "patch,"
which says "the program and its derivative work will neither be
modified or executed to harm any human being nor through inaction
permit any human being to be harmed."

Mengotti says the clause is specifically intended to prevent military
use. "We are software developers who dedicate part of our free time to
open source development. The fact is that open source is used by the
military industry. Open source operating systems can steer warplanes
and rockets. [This] patch should make clear to users of the software
that this is definitely not allowed by the licenser."

He says some might think an attempt to prevent military use might be
"too idealistic" and would not work in practice, but he references the
world of ham radio, whose rules specify that the technology is not to
be used commercially. "Surprisingly enough, this rule is respected by
almost every ham operator."

The developers readily acknowledge that the "patch" contradicts the
original intention of the GPL, to provide complete freedom for users
of software and source code licensed under it. "This license collides
with paragraph six of the Open Source Definition," is how they word it
in the license preamble.

Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software movement and author
of the GPL, says that while he doesn't support the philosophy of "open
source," neither does he believe software developers or distributors
have the right to try to control other people's activities through
restricting the software they run. "Nonetheless, I don't think the
requirement is entirely vacuous, so we cannot disregard it as legally

"As a pacifist, I sympathize with their goals," says Russ Nelson, a
founding board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). "People who
feel strongly about war will sometimes take actions which they realize
are ineffectual, but make it clear that they are not willing to take
action which directly supports war."

Tegel says he doesn't fully agree with the inclusion of the clause in
GPU's license. "I see the point, and my personal opinion supports it,
but I am not sure if it fits in a license," he says. "Like our Dutch
military: I can say it is bad because it kills people and costs money.
But on the other hand, we were taught by both our leftist and rightist
teachers to enjoy our freedom due to the alliance freeing us from
Nazis, a thing which I appreciate very much."

Both developers do agree about one aspect of their license clause. It
is based on the first of science fiction writer Isaac Asimov's Three
Law of Robotics, which states, "A robot may not harm a human being,
or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm." That, they
say, is a good thing, "because the guy was right," Tegel says, "and he
showed the paradox that almost any technological development has to
solve, whether it is software or an atom bomb. We must discuss now
what ethical problems we may raise in the future."
Contact: projekt

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