Rapidly proliferating software license prohibits use by companies with poor labor practices

Katt Gu and Suji Yan’s Anti 996 License allows developers to prohibit the use of their code by companies that do not follow basic labor practices (996 is a Chinese software industry term for where the coders work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 6 days a week).

Under the terms of the license, the software can only be used by companies that adhere to the most restrictive standards of the International Labor Organization and labor laws in each country where the company has offices (the guidelines of the ILO guarantee the right to join a union, among other important labor rules).

The license was inspired by the burgeoning anti-996 movement in China, although many American companies do not abide by the terms set out by the anti-996 license.

75 projects on Github have adopted the license since its inception last weekend, and a crowdsourced blacklist lists companies whose practices mean they can’t use anti-996 licensed code, including Alibaba and Bytedance. the popular children’s parent company. Tiktok social media app.

The anti-996 license may violate the Open Source Initiative’s canonical definition of open source, which excludes licenses that limit reuse “within a specific area of ​​activity”.

It’s a fascinating addition to the chaotic tumult rocking the world of open source licensing.

Evan You, the Chinese-American developer behind the open-source programming framework Vue, says he’s “sympathetic to developers who have to deal with 996,” but that Vue won’t adopt the Anti-996 license.

“I think open source software should be free for everyone, and adding discriminatory clauses is against the very spirit of free software,” You says. “It’s also a slippery slope: if adding anti-996 clauses is considered good practice today, then it’s only a matter of time for open source software to add clauses that block anyone who does not have the same ideological position as its author.”

Meeker says the anti-996 license is more professional than most other activist licenses she’s seen, but could be difficult to enforce. “The consequence of violating a license condition is only the loss of rights to use the software,” she says.

Anti-996 license [996.ICU/Github]

How Github Helps Overworked Chinese Programmers [Klint Finley/Wired]