The HESSLA's Problems
Enhanced-Source Software License Agreement (HESSLA) is a software
source license that tries to put restrictions of ethical conduct on
use and modification of the software. Because it restricts what jobs
people can use the software for, and restricts in substantive ways
what jobs modified versions of the program can do, it is not a free
software license. The ironic result is that the community of people
most likely to feel sympathy for the goals of the HESSLA cannot
contribute to HESSLA-covered software without violating its principles.
The restrictions in the HESSLA prohibit specific activities that are
inexcusable: violations of human rights, and introduction of features
that spy on the user. People might ask why we do not declare an
exception for these particular restrictions—why do we stick to
the general policy of rejecting all restrictions on use and on the
functionality of modified versions?
If we were ever going to make an exception to our principles of free
software, here would be the place to do it. But it would be a mistake
to do so: it
would do harm to free software movement and would achieve nothing.
Trying to stop those particular activities with a software license is
either unnecessary or ineffective.
In regard to modified versions, the HESSLA's restrictions are
unnecessary. The GNU GPL is, in general, sufficient protection against
privacy-violating features, because it ensures that someone can get
the source code, find the spyware feature, and publish an improved
version of the software which does not have the feature. Users can
then switch to that version if they don't want their personal
information to be reported.
As for restricting the use of the software by governments that violate
human rights, this is likely to be ineffective. There are many other
programs they can use. Also, at least under US law, a copyright-based
source license can't restrict use of the program; such a restriction
is not enforcible anyway. Meanwhile, they can simply decide they are
exempt from the restrictions.