Ethical Licencing Concept, in the Typography World

I know many here are also fans of typography, so I thought this was worth sharing.

The article is quite readable and manages to address some of the central issues regarding enforceability, specifically the issue of specificity.

Some Type Foundries Want to Restrict Usage of Their Fonts on Ethical Grounds. Will It Work?


Thanks so much for sharing this! I hadn’t hear of this at all.

Fun contrast:

This share has just made my day. So narcissistic. But I kept digging and found the actual license.
Looks like those sections were amended.

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In July 2020, Goldman Sachs removed the non-disparagement part of the font licence. C.2.b now reads:

“The User may not use the Licensed Font Software to suggest any affiliation with or endorsement by Goldman Sachs.”


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EULA’s, permissive licenses (and copyleft) are all (strictly speaking) ‘ethical licenses’. The ‘ethical’ in ‘ethical licensing’ points to a small basket of licenses that advance the political preferences of the people that write them is a marketing buzzword. All copyright, copyleft and all licenses, all of them would be better referred to as ‘political licenses’ IMO. I have not yet come across any licensing scheme that can be reliably evaluated/distinguished using ethical criteria. I suspect either all licenses are ethical, or none of them are?

OK, I guess. But what does “ethical” mean, then? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

On a lighter note, I occasionally manage to rib somebody with “unethical licenses” as the opposite of “ethical licenses”. I enjoy that.

yeah, that framing allows for hilarious comedy but also it’s technically possible to make a case that it’s sincerely true.

but yeah, i do think there’s something to the idea that even licenses which don’t advertise themselves as “ethical” carry an ethics with them. the GPL, for example, is explicitly a product of the view that it is unethical for software to be non-Free™.

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What I notice is applying an ‘ethical license’ doesn’t seem to feature the kind of specificity that can help licensees clear up contentious use cases. The rude ambiguity in terms like ‘evil’ by my reckoning enlarges the scope for contention, well confusion anyway. So that leaves us with the final branch, meta-ethics, which you conveniently raise:

To my mind, the opposite of ‘ethical’ isn’t ‘unethical’ (which would be one person’s value judgment of another person’s ethics?) but ‘non-ethical’… an objective absence of ethics?

I would like to take the opportunity of suggesting that ‘Ethical Licensing’ is driven almost completely by job market signalling. I don’t think other explanations, like ‘vanity’ contribute as much as this. Also, ethical values are axiomatic, meaning whatever is articulated in the license text as disallowed use cases, the irk-to-capital is in assigning one of their less ambitious lawyers to humorlessly micromanage the perceived risk of litigation? … the famous JSON perhaps being the ‘goto’ illustration of this heavy-going, unamused treatment by lumbering, skittish institutions… oh… you’ll know of many others tho’?

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I have had a good convo with the author of the anti-capitalist license. he admitted to doing a Ctrl H (find and replace) with (from memory) some GPL thing?

My main contention with that license is that it is set up to ALLOW first. This passes a compliance burden on to prospective adopters.

My preference is for a license that places the compliance burden on capital… so that requires a license that explicity DISALLOWS capital… by definfing what is ‘capitalist’ and then being permissive for everyone else, both for capital goods (what you call ‘intra-corporate’) and consumers goods… which are like your apps, games and chiz.

i do think there’s something to the idea that even licenses which don’t advertise themselves as “ethical” carry an ethics with them.

Absolutely, I have not yet come across a license that doesn’t import some ethical implications. I find the tendency to argue against a license whose politics we don’t like on the grounds that the author lacks sincerity misses the opportunity for constructive debate. I have no doubt Perens/Devault/Rosen/Raymond et al are all sincere. The problem I have with their work is it extends an intensely unreliable analysis of the political economy:

FOSS is not socialist.


The free software movement is right-libertarian / “anarcho”-capitalist

If it matters any… I think it’s ‘techno-utopian liberalism’ at it’s core? … and of course has shifted to the right because of the mega-corporate delight in seeking advantage from reducing costs in infrastructure, bundling their own products and so on… the libertarian/anarcho elements I tend to see as more ‘techno-utopian’… it’s not that all these crypto fanatics are anarchists or libertarians… they haven’t even thought that far yet AFAICT… they are just in thrawl to Stallmanism, decentralization/P2P/fosschain etc… when they leave their parents house they are more than likely to be pro-business IMO.

and the open source movement is neoliberal;