Is lack of software freedom a valid reason for refusal?

Jonas Oberg jonas at
Fri Sep 22 08:14:35 UTC 2017

Hi Carsten,

>I imagine a number of situations:

I don't think there's a universal answer for this. It's a choice individuals need to make, taking into consideration the consequences it leads to. It's not dissimilar to the situation described here:

The ethicist answering that question doesn't go into much detail but I believe the conclusion is a reasonable one:

"If you decline the assignment, you will need to accept any career consequences that you face, but you should have confidence because you stood up for what you believed in, and likely, you will gain the respect of your peers for taking a stand. Your career will be long, and you may face similar decisions at times. Deciding what you believe in and what you are willing to compromise on early will allow you to live with integrity."

Those consequences can be dire and include the loss of unemployment benefits in countries not recognizing your moral beliefs as a reason to reject employments. But the question is not easy: you have also been trained, potentially hired, for a particular job, and the employer has, and likely should have, a significant power to direct the work you do for the benefit of the organisation. Even if this means using proprietary software.

But the risk you then face is that of risking your employment. If you're a midwife refusing to carry out abortions out of your moral beliefs, you can not, and should not, be allowed to work in public health care, as the employer must be able to direct you to carry out an abortion.

What is important to me though is the recognition that there are highly individual answers to this. No one should be able to fault someone else for not following the same moral compass as someone else.

Jonas Öberg
Free Software Foundation Europe | jonas at
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