Friday, April 12, 2019

Open Source Activism

Open Source, or the general idea of a software commons, has always had echos of a progressive viewpoint independent of the simple notion of "free code".  I have heard it described many different ways, but the the general theme tends to circle around software quickly becoming so integral to even the most basic functions of society that the benefits of public crowd sourcing development efforts fundamentally out weigh a business model approach favoring software as a proprietary investment.

However, I have never seen such a direct attempt to use the tools and artifacts of the open source community to impact public policy as described by this NPR article.  It is a fascinating account of how technical workers in China's censored society have chosen to leverage a GitHub repository to influence corporate behavior regarding working conditions.  The name "" indicates a frustration that despite Chinese labor laws to the contrary, many technical workers are required to work 12 hour days (9 to 9), 6 days a week, in order to keep their position, and the attempt to keep such a grueling schedule can result in a hospital visit to the intensive care unit or "ICU".  Apparently GitHub was chosen as the medium of expression as unlike more traditional social media channels, it is very resistant to government censorship given the importance to so many corporate and academic institutions.

Even more fascinating to me is the development and inclusion of the "Anti 996 License", which is a derivative of the standard MIT license.  In it licensees are required to:

"strictly comply with all applicable laws, regulations, rules and standards of the jurisdiction relating to labor and employment where the individual is physically located or where the individual was born or naturalized; or where the legal entity is registered or is operating (whichever is stricter)"
And it appears that many in the open source community see the value in such an approach because in just a few days many projects have adopted the license.  See here for a current list.

Of course the enforceability of such a clause probably varies by jurisdiction and to my knowledge has not yet been tested anywhere, but it is an intriguing juxtaposition of the technical world and social activism.

Would you ever consider such a licensing approach for one of your projects?

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