SourceForge Gives Me a Morality Poser

Posted on July 8, 2010

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As an administrator on a SourceForge-based project, I was recently sent this email by SourceForge (SF):

SourceForge has project settings to help you comply with regulations governing distribution of software to persons from certain countries (aka Export Controls).  We’ve had some recent questions about these settings, so have sent out this note to all administrators to make sure all projects have this information.

By default, software downloads initiated by visitors from Sudan, North Korea, Syria, Iran and Cuba are blocked.

A project administrator may disable this blocking if they conclude that their project is *not* subject to US export-related regulations or any prohibitions of applicable jurisdictions…

To be honest, the first thing that comes into my head, when asked, “Do you want to allow people in Sudan, North Korea, Syria, Iran and Cuba access to your code?”, is: “Uh… yeah. Why wouldn’t I?”*

It is really quite an odd and pathetic situation all round. It’s technically feeble to try and block access to certain countries for a start. It is quite simple for someone knowledgeable enough to access SF using a computer from another country as an intermediate (e.g. using a VPN), or even simply to ask someone  in another country to send them a copy of a SF project.

Furthermore, it is a bit much to be just assumed of contravening US laws prima facie, then to be asked to work out for myself (as a non-US citizen) whether this is true or not, and then make a declaration to that effect.

And it certainly violates the spirit of the FLOSS “code” for very obvious reasons, as well as the letter. Just take a look at article 5 of the Open Source Definition, one of the commendable things that the “Open Source crowd” brought to the whole FLOSS party in my opinion:

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

* Saros is now available in Communist nations and the Axis of Evil.

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Posted in: Opinion