Can we create an OSCE license that only allows use 'for good'?


We need to extend the cc-licence: so far we only have BY, SA and Commercial or not. We need a licence for the good use of our technology. Example: you create a map tool. If it is OS it can also be used by Nazis to organise refugee-attacks. We need a license that does forbid this kind of use, e.g. common-good only license…

MENTOR SESSION – Circular Cities; learning from the pioneers - Emma Cherim

Unfortunately, such a license would certainly not be seen as ‘free’ ‘libre’ or ‘open source’ by any existing definition or open source community because is discriminates against particular people or fields of use.

One problem is that it is extremely difficult to judge and enforce - your idea of good and evil may differ from my idea of good and evil. Some groups may be seen as freedom fighters or activists by some people and terrorists by others. (Just to be clear I’m talking generally here, not supporting nazis!)

By using standard licenses we make our work compatible with the rest of the commons, people understand straight away how they can use a project, and we have legal precedents showing that these licenses hold up in a court of law.

One interesting development which you may want to follow, however, is the P2P foundation’s idea for a ‘Peer Production License’. I find it a nice idea but currently impractical, I don’t see a way to get it started or implement it easily. But I’m keeping an eye on it.


I had a chat today with Luca, a journalist who is currently creating , a platform to publish about great transformation projects and interesting dates for change-makers, including a map of such projects. I couldn’t convince him to go OS with his platform because he has objections against lettign everyone use his work for whichever end. And I do agree: technology is not good in itself, it is indifferent to its uses: with facebook you can create a revolution against a dictator or a spy-tool against the very same people. You can use youtube for democratizing countries or promoting the IS. If I create a tool or a manual and allow everyone to use it, I do not want to help the wrong people to do their destructive work better. So I need a way to express this in a licence.

I agree that this will be extremely difficult to achieve, but I do think that we should consider Luca’s objections thoroughly: How can we ensure that our OS-developments are only used to create a fair and sustainable Circular Economy? We may allow commercial use, but I don’t want to allow use for the purpose of exploitation, inequality etc.


I agree and understand, but personally I would prefer to have my work compatible with the existing commons than worry about potential misuse.
For example, if you took a photo and released it under some kind of a ‘do no evil’ license, I would not be able to incorporate it into a video with any creative commons CC-BY-SA music, which is how I usually work, because your license prevents me from releasing it under CC-BY-SA, for anyone to use for any purpose. Even without the music issue, I would still be forced to release my new video under either All Rights Reserved or the same ‘do no evil’ license - I could not use a creative commons license as that would provide the potential for somebody further ‘downstream’ to end up remixing my video for evil, which means your photo is then used for evil.
So disregarding the extreme difficulty of defining and enforcing such a license, it creates a messy legal tangle where most people (and certainly all organisations with a legal team) would simply be too cautious to touch anything with a ‘do no evil’ license, meaning that the fertile, evolutionary potential of open source is rendered useless.

Here’s a nice little on-topic anecdote: “IBM may use this for evil”

My personal opinion is that, yes, it’s worthwhile looking into the topic, but I am extremely sceptical that you will be able to come up with an elegant solution which is definable, enforceable, and can at the same time grow a healthy, interactive and useful global commons. So by all means try, but it’s going to be damn hard. Far too hard for me, so I will spend my time on other issues. But if it’s important to you, go for it.


I started looking into this. Of course it’s difficult and should not infringe compatibility but I think it’s an issue to discuss. We could also get in touch with Laurence Lessing who created the cc license to learn from them and maybe collaborate on developing one.


While I understand the idea to prevent use of content to do despicable actions, I suppose, like @cameralibre, that the license is not a good place to prevent this.

  1. Does a license even have an effect? (In many cases, no, material will be used as long as technically accessible – Nazis)
  2. If it has an effect theoretically, can you enforce that with a lawsuit? (lets say, against military industry)
  3. Such a license may prevent a really rare case of use we consider immoral (given that one finds out and can/wants to defend the right) but we would loose compatibility, “gain” a lot of gray areas (what is “aggression”, “good”, “common”…)

The common way to deal with 2)/ 3) is usually to use a share-alike clause. It does not prevent the case of use one considers wrong, but it enforces that even the “wrong” use needs to contribute back to the community of people who will (subjective assumption– ) use the content for good.


One further addition, to a point made earlier:[quote=“transitionmaike, post:3, topic:4648”]
technology is not good in itself, it is indifferent to its uses: with facebook you can create a revolution against a dictator or a spy-tool against the very same people.

I disagree that technology is indifferent to its uses or neutral in any way.
In the case of facebook, yes, both of these activities are possible, but the way that facebook is designed ensures that is much more effective as a tool for spying than for launching a revolution.
If a social network were encrypted, open source, decentralized, with no corporate middleman inbetween the users, no remote collection of data, easily accessible archived discussions, real control in the users’ hands over who has access to what information, and design decisions to favour practical discourse over click mining, it would function much, much better as a revolutionary tool than a spy tool.


admin note: I relocated this topic to the Open Source category. Tell me if you think I am wrong. (Could also be in Policy)


Does a license even have an effect?

  • You cannot prevent ideas from being misused, but you would at least have a legal battleground to reclaim them.
    Can you enforce that with a lawsuit?
  • depends on how strong we will grow in the future. I’m realistic: at this point most likely not.
    and “gain” a lot of gray areas (what is “aggression”, “good”, “common”…)
  • yes, I do think that we can and should not avoid discussing these. Who are we creating and preoducing for? How do we allocate ressources in an open data materials flow? Isn’t the whole point of open sourcing the cirular economy that we gain democratic access to defining which goods common people need and want? How else can we stop wastefulness but to stop overproduction of unwanted and unusable goods by asking people instead of leaving it to “free” markets that do not serve us any more? Shouldn’t it be inherent in open source production that we also get to know the conditions of production and not only the ingredients, tools and methods? I’m aware that in OS software we normally don’t get to know much about the peope behind it, but to me OSCE is also opportunity for a fairer market by giving open acces to the information that will hinder secret externalizing of costs.


thanks for trying to keep topics in order.


I also changed the title so that people can better understand what this topic is about when browsing the forum - if it’s not appropriate, let me know, and I will change it back to ‘Create OSCE-license’ or you can choose something else.