Living Source?

Living Source prohibits large-scale business use so we can continue to work together without adding to the economies of scale and concentrations of corporate wealth typified by ‘Big Tech’.

Living Code, Living Source and the Living License came out of my wanting to share my book, Living Patterns freely, without using a pro-corporate Open Source license or committing to the naive dogma of Free Software.

But remember I am just one veteran British web programmer and researcher, not a lawyer.

What works for me, might not work for you.

  • BTW: the software for this website is courtesy of the folk at Jekyll. It’s a shame so much of the software out there is not Living Source, but you never know, maybe more will be, one day!

Living Source is part of Living Code, a movement that extends the Open Source and Free Culture movements.

Instead of promoting indiscriminate access, a Living Source license explicitly prohibits large-scale business use while allowing everyone else to do pretty much whatever they like.

Living Source aims to serve the public good:

  1. Promoting fairer working practices
  2. Improving economic efficiency
  3. Protecting public interest
  4. Keeping in mind security, health, safety and environmental implications.

Large businesses pose particular threats that are less obvious in smaller businesses simply due to the scale of operations, resources, financial and legal power and influence.

Corporate Power

Some large businesses have too much control over a sector or market. Monopolistic practices result in higher prices, lower quality products, less innovation, and fewer choices for the public.

Holding Back Innovation

Dominance creates barriers to entry for anyone else. Big businesses seek to control access to resources, like technology and access to networks that are unattainable for ordinary people and smaller organizations.

Economic Control

Large businesses have disproportionate influence over prices. This is used to ‘starve others out’ and then they raise prices when everyone else has been killed off.

The bigger the business, the more they are able to access finance and negotiate better terms than individuals, smaller outfits and non-profits.

Political Influence

Large corporations lobby for legislation that favors their own interests at the expense of smaller entities and the public good.

They exert pressure on regulatory authorities to have regulations that serve their interests. This includes trading laws, labor policies and environmental regulations.

Free Riding

Large businesses access ‘Open Source’ and Free Software with impunity. They control vast supply chains and networks, giving them the power to treat individuals, small businesses, communities and workers unfairly.

Complicated corporate structures also let them exploit tax laws. They take advantage of loopholes in legislation to minimize the tax they pay that could be used for wider, public benefit.

In Summary

The specific threat posed by large businesses is the way they exploit the public, the economy, workers, the environment, tax and other regulations, sometimes with disasterous consequences for large populations. They present significant environmemtal hazards in terms of massive pollution and large-scale resource depletion.

Living Source is for work distributed on websites, servers, digital platforms, apps and so on.

There is already a simple to use, permissive, public copyright licensing scheme prohibiting large businesses called the Living License which allows most people to do pretty much whatever they like with Living Source.

The only requirement is to include either the license text in full, or a clickable link to

Can Use commercially, modify, adapt, distribute, sublicense1, use privately2, use a patent3, add a warranty4
Must Include license or clickable link to
Cannot Hold Workers liable

IMPORTANT: Please make sure you have read and understood the implications of the Living License before you fix your work to it. Hire your own legal adviser if you are unsure of the suitability of the Living License for your own needs.

The Living License cannot be revoked!

If you think the Living License is not right for you, other Living Source licenses are available.

  1. Modified works may be licensed with additional restrictions, (e.g. commercial, ‘non-commercial’ or ‘ethical’ clauses). 

  2. Private use includes special ‘free uses’, such as quotations in news reports, fair use for teaching and study purposes, first sale, work for hire and some other proprietary uses such as evaluation, testing, trials and trade secrets

  3. Having a patent grant may be useful with some software because it protects Workers against legal claims. 

  4. A warranty may be added, for example if additional products or services are bundled with the work. 

Big companies that operate on a massive massive scale are banned from using Living Source materials to effectively reduce the overall level of harm to people and the planet.

Although small-scale use also poses risks, the total impact of the harm is much smaller in comparison.

This is why Living Source explicitly bans large-scale use rather than specific activities or purposes like some other licenses do.

By banning large corporations Living Source eliminates significant risks of harms by targeting problematic practices caused by scale alone.

Easier Monitoring

It is much easier for copyright owners to monitor and enforce their licenses among a relatively smaller number of large businesses than to police countless small entities looking for unethical or prohibited practices.

Large companies report the number of employees in official returns so no special analysis is need to find out if a company is using Living Source code in breach of the terms.

Worker Welfare

Large companies, by definition employ more people and so the level of exploitation is probably higher in these companies.

By targeting large-scale operations, Living Source intends to achieve the most substantial decrease in harms and motivate global change.