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Ethical Software is a spook

Marko Mirceski,   ·   2 minute read


Coraline Ada Ehmke. As a free software activist, this name only means one thing: Trouble. But what do I mean by that? I mean that the self-proclaimed “open-source troublemaker” could be the greatest threat to free software as we know it. And you’ll see why it is as dramatic as I make it out to be.

“The Hippocratic License”

But what does a single programmer have to do with the death of free software? Well, she is the original creator of the “Hippocratic License”, a so-called open-source license, that, in short, only allows the use of software for “ethical purposes”. Now, the problem with ethical software is that it is non-free in its nature, since the use of software for unethical purposes is prohibited under this license. Another problem arises when we try to determine ethics in conjunction with software. What even is “ethical”? Is it some form of law? Or are you appealing to common sense? Or do you want to go the “liberal” route and say that it’s only ethical as long as it agrees with your agenda? Now, what I want to say is that the definition of ethics is muddy at best.

Why it affects free software

But how does this threaten free software? Well, for starters, it gives opponents of free software a base upon which they can build an argument without being called out for their use of proprietary software, since it’s open-source. Like, for example, people can then argue that free software is bad because you can use it for unethical purposes. Another group that benefits from this are big companies bent on controlling people’s lives. They can say their use of the software is entirely ethical while also collecting data, selling it, and generally making a profit off of it’s customers just living their lives.


Free software prevents all of this, by respecting the user’s freedoms at all times. But “ethical software” and its proponents want to take that away, and control your use-cases with their restrictive license. You, the user, must prevent this at all costs, if you want your freedoms to survive.