SourceForge, the world's largest open source software development website, has backed off a widely unpopular, end-of-January decision that had banned entire countries from accessing the site's vast assortment of open-source software projects. In a blog post yesterday, SourceForge announced that it would discontinue its blanket ban, which was done using automatic IP blocking.
The new policy puts the responsibility for restricting access to certain projects in the hands of project administrators.
According to SourceForge's original statement, certain countries were banned as a way to come into compliance with US law. The IP ban had affected users from a number of countries, including Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
Under the site's new policy, the most restrictive settings will be set as default, leaving the impetus to change who can access a project, and from where, up to the project administrator.
"Our action provoked a strong, angry reaction from those it affected and from the community at large," reads the blog post. "We recognize that, for some people, the recent site changes called into question whether your support of us is justified. The changes that we deployed today are intended to empower our projects and reward your continued trust."
It will now be up to the administrator to determine that their project can be exported and how access might be restricted according to "the Denied Persons List and the Entity List, and other lists issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security," which SourceForge identified in its original decision.
While this opens the doors back up to users in a number of countries, we can only wonder what type of problems project administrators might run into now. Is this an admirable move or is it like a news organization not backing up its reporters? Instead of making a statement about US laws and how they might apply to the open-source movement, SourceForge is instead saying it will go with the flow and leave any stance-taking up to its users.
Right now, all projects remain restricted by default, so we'll have to wait and see if the open-source community rallies behind their stated outrage and opens up the projects en masse, or if it cowers behind uncertainty over US export laws.