Hippy Software Licenses

One of my favorite software licenses is the Beerware license, here in a version due to Poul-Henning Kamp:

* --------------------------------------------------------------
* "THE BEER-WARE LICENSE" (Revision 42):
* <> wrote this file. As long as you retain
* this notice you can do whatever you want with this stuff.
* If we meet some day, and you think this stuff is worth it,
* you can buy me a beer in return Poul-Henning Kamp
* --------------------------------------------------------------

Recently I came across a license of a form I’d never seen before, this one for one of the top graph isomorphism software programs, nauty:

Copyright (1984-2010) Brendan McKay. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby given for use and/or distribution with the exception of sale for profit or application with nontrivial military significance. You must not remove this copyright notice, and you must document any changes that you make to this program. This software is subject to this copyright only, irrespective of any copyright attached to any package of which this is a part.

Just as there are socially conscious mutual funds, it also appears that there are socially conscious software licenses! Who knew?

6 Replies to “Hippy Software Licenses”

  1. I know a guy (an ecologist) whose Ph.D. thesis ended with these words:
    “It is strictly prohibited to use, to investigate or to develop, in a direct or indirect way, any of the scientific contributions of the author contained in this work by any army or armed group in the world, for military purposes and for any other use which is against human rights or the environment, unless a written consent of all the persons in the world is obtained”

  2. Gosh … is there any weblog, anywhere in the world, that still endeavors to host serious discussions of quantum information theory?
    If not, why not?
    In my database, the gold-standard of embittered academic commentary is from Jared Diamond’s epilogue to his book The Third Chimpanzee: the Evolution and the Future of the Human Animal (1992).
    Diamond’s epilogue is titled “Nothing Learned and Everything Forgotten”:

    “[New Guinea explorer Arthur Wichman] grew disillusioned as he realized that successive explorers committed the same stupidities again and again: unwarranted pride in overstated accomplishments, refusal to acknowledge disastrous oversights, ignoring the accomplishments of previous explorers, consequent repitition of previous errors, hence a long history of unnecessary sufferings and deaths. The bitter last sentence that concluded Wichman’s last volume was: “Nothing learned, and everything forgotten!”

    German speakers will enjoy the Arthur Wichman quote, which I have transcribed as follows:

    Verderblicher wirkte aber und wirkt is noch, dass die Mehrzahl der Forschungsreisenden, allen üblen Erfahrungen zum Trotz und bis in die Neueste Zeit hinein, sich nicht dazu aufzuschwingen vermochte sich über frühere Arbeiten zu unterrichten und daher in unzureichender Weise vorbereitet hinauszog. Auch in Zukunft wird es nicht an Leuten fehlen, die sich selbst schändend un unbekümmert darum, dass das Schicksal sie guter Letzt doch ereilt, durch fingirte Reisebeschreibungen die rasch sich verflüchtigende Gunst des grossen Haufens zu erringen suchen. An allen dies Missständen wird auch dieses Werk kaum etwas zu ändern vermögen. Nichts gelernt und alles vergessen!

    which Google translate renders colorfully as

    Perishable and has worked but is still that the majority of the explorers, into all the bad experiences in defiance and until very recently, was unable to soar to obtain information on previous work and therefore inadequately prepared first went out. In the future there will be no lack of people who consider themselves shameful un unconcerned about the fate that they finally overtaken yet to win fictitious travelogues by the rapidly evaporating favor of the multitude of hotels. On all these abuses, this work is able to change very little. Learned nothing and forgotten everything!

    Needless to say, in the ensuing 18 years, Prof. Diamond has gone on to write other, less pessimistic works … which hasn’t been easy … and for which he (and all committed optimists) deserves our respect.

  3. Dave, it was Shakespeare who memorably wrote:

    We all were sea-swallow’d, though some cast again, and by that destiny to perform an act, whereof what’s past is prologue…

    Thus (as it seems to me) the seminal 20th century conceptions of quantum computing are being continuously, and vigorously, renewed and repurposed as quantum systems engineering (for example), and many other 21st century disciplines too.
    We can all hope so, anyway! 🙂

  4. As an addendum, over on Scott Aaronson’s Shtetl Optimized there is discussion of an Oded Goldreich essay that quotes the poet Robinson Jeffers.
    Jeffers’ well-known poems The Purse Seine and Let Them Alone are mentioned, and these poems are read as speaking directly to the question “What are the goals of science and engineering, and in particular, what are the goals of quantum science and engineering?”
    Personally, I utterly and vehemently disagree with the point-of-view that Jeffers’ poetry advocates … but it is no bad thing that these topics sometimes are discussed.

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