5

When you publish software under a free or open source license, you are granting users certain freedoms. With that, it stands within reason there are certain consequences and liabilities, just as there are certain consequences and liabilities when you entertain your right to free speech.

In publishing controversial software, what 'criticism and consequences' might developers face?

  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it appears to be an editorial in the form of a question. – derobert Jun 29 '15 at 14:51
  • @derobert How would you like it rephrased? The 'editorial' is more background for the question – kdopen Jun 29 '15 at 14:58
  • But closed source software is not published openly, exposing vulnerabilities in commercial systems. This aspect is very specific to FLOS software – kdopen Jun 29 '15 at 15:06
  • 1
    @kdopen Honestly, from your comments on Stephen's answer, it sounds like you want to have a discussion—a back and forth—on the topic, not ask a question that can reasonably be answered. Nothing wrong with that, it's just not what Stack Exchange works well for. You could try chat. – derobert Jun 29 '15 at 15:40
  • 2
    @kdopen I rather heavy handedly edited the question. I could see if you don't agree with the edit and want to revert it. – Martijn Jun 29 '15 at 16:43
7

You're reading too much into the analogy: "free as in speech" is by opposition to "free as in gratis", to help people understand that "free" is about freedom, not price. The FSF don't claim that free software is like freedom of speech (at least not that I'm aware!).

As is usual with software (which doesn't mean it's not controversial), the FSF's free software licenses include the usual disclaimer of warranty to protect developers from the consequences of errors in their code...

  • But should they be protected from the consequences of those errors? And I didn't draw the analogy, it is Stallman who constantly reiterates the "freedom" angle. – kdopen Jun 29 '15 at 14:59
  • 3
    That's a whole other question, and beyond the scope of just open source or free software... – Stephen Kitt Jun 29 '15 at 15:00
  • In an open source context though, it's easier to identify an individual to blame. So it is specifically relevant in this context – kdopen Jun 29 '15 at 15:11
  • Not necessarily, because in this kind of game you're usually looking for deep pockets, not individuals to blame. And closed software hasn't ever been an obstacle to audits when there's been cause for them; courts are perfectly capable of enforcing audits with appropriate protections. – Stephen Kitt Jun 29 '15 at 15:14
  • 1
    Due to <s>executive meddling</s> heavy editing of the question, this question which I believe was an excellent answer to the question as written doesn't apply that well anymore, unfortunately. – Martijn Jun 29 '15 at 16:58
5

In general, there's no more or less consequence to publishing controversial proprietary software than there is for free software. Regardless of how you license it, software is software, and people will react to it how they choose. The fact that you've released the source and granted redistribution and modification rights for your controversial software doesn't really change anything.

In fact, the main risk I see is controversy introduced by a downstream fork of your non-controversial software. Suppose you made a free-software game engine, and someone else used your engine to make a game that glamorized some violent atrocity from history. Of course, you're not responsible for the creation of such an awful game, but, alarmingly, your copyright notice is in the credits, per the requirements of your license. I'm not totally sure what your legal options are there, but at minimum you could probably insist that the author of the game clearly delineate the authorship of your engine and of the controversial game in the game's documentation.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.