An OpenSource license that requires users to do no harm?

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When a software is licensed as «Open Source», the idea is that anyone can use it as they want and for whatever they want. This, however, causes resentment in some creators who see their work used by large corporations and/or countries for purposes that are, say, unethical from their point of view.

This is why, in 2019, Coraline Ada Ehmke devised what is known as the «Hippocratic License», which is a code-of-ethics license that specifically prohibits the use of software to violate universal human rights standards (first, do no harm), and which incorporates the principles of Ethical Source Software.

The reason for this is, says Coraline, that both the policy and the software are linked in such a way that it is impossible to separate one from the other. This is justified by the example of facial recognition software, which serves both to unlock the mobile phone and to record, track and focus the activities of political dissidents.

She therefore believes that all technologies, including open source ones, can be politicized to some extent; there is no such thing as a technology-neutral political position.

However, while the purpose of the idea is a better world, the very limitation implied by this Hippocratic License conflicts with the free software definition itself, since it limits the tasks for which users can use the software, thus denying freedom according to the GNU. That is why this license is not considered free software.

So far, the Hippocratic License has been adopted by more than 300 projects, which is mostly symbolic and token. Will programmers be encouraged to join this initiative, or will it remain a mere declaration of intent by software creators? Time will tell.

De momento, la licencia hipocrática ha sido adoptada por más de 300 proyectos, algo apenas testimonial. ¿Se animarán los programadores a sumarse a esta iniciativa, o quedará como una mera declaración de intenciones de los creadores de software? El tiempo dirá.

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