The Hippocratic License 2.1

Yes. We worked with a team of talented and specialized IP lawyers to create versions 2.0 and later of the license.

Is the Hippocratic License open source?

It is the intention and belief of the author that the Hippocratic License is an open source license, and that it meets the criteria of the Open Source Definition (OSD). However, it has not yet been reviewed by the OSI, and certain members of that organization believe that it violates the OSD (see below).

Is the Hippocratic License based on an existing open source license?

Originally yes, it was based on the MIT License, but the 2.x revisions brought it so far from that license that it can’t really be thought of as a derivative anymore.

Doesn’t the Hippocratic License violate the “No Discrimination” and “Fields of Endeavor” terms of the Open Source Definition?

Those sections state that an Open Source License must not discriminate against any person or group of persons, or against any field of endeavor, respectively.

No Groups or Fields are discriminated against by the Hippocratic License. People in the Groups are welcome to use software under the Hippocratic License in their Fields. The restrictions in the Hippocratic License target specific activities, not groups of people or fields of work. The restrictions apply equally to all people and all groups, in all fields of endeavor. Therefore, the restrictions are not discriminatory in any way.

Is the Hippocratic License enforceable?

Enforcement is a legitimate concern, and we worked hard on this aspect of the license based on feedback from the community following its initial launch. Unlike many other licenses, which rely on courts to settle issues of license violations, the Hippocratic License puts the power of enforcement directly in the hands of the code’s creators.

Ethics can vary from person to person and place to place, so how can the Hippocratic License be considered ethical by everyone?

Edmund Berkeley, an early computer pioneer and founder of the Association for Computing Machines, said that there are activities which are undeniably for social good, activities which are undeniably against social good, and a wide swath of activities in between. The Hippocratic License has as its ethical foundation the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone human rights document that was drafted by representatives from around the world and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 as a common standard for all peoples and all nations. The UDHR is a set of ethical standards defining universal human rights that do not vary from person to person or place to place.

How can the Hippocratic License prevent human rights abuses by oppressive governments? Why would such a government feel compelled to follow the rules of a license?

When a state is engaged in human rights violations, there is little chance of a legal remedy of any kind being an effective deterrent, and a license will certainly not be helpful in a case like this. The Hippocratic License was designed to cause friction when another party (such as a corporation) uses software to aid in those human rights abuses. Then the enforcement mechanism comes into play, automatically revoking the license unless the party agrees to arbitration under the Hague Rules for Business and Human Rights Arbitration to decide the matter.

An example of this scenario in the real world is the software consultancy Palantir using open source in providing services to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) in the US, responsible for human rights violations at the border. Even then, the license can’t outright prevent the abuses— it can only create friction and make material support more expensive for the contractor, while also empowering the developer of the licensed software to prevent their work to be used for unethical purposes.

In a way, this is similar to digital security precautions. We have a variety of tools and techniques that are combined and layered in such a way as to create as many hurdles or obstacles to would-be attackers as possible, without ever being able to guarantee 100% security.

Is the Hippocratic License registered with SPDX?

Yes, and you can find its entry at

How do I annotate the Hippocratic License in project documentation?

Use Hippocratic 2.1.