The trade war between the US and China may have a detrimental effect on the open source development shared between the developers of both nations. It was recently revealed that GitHub’s export control rules make it necessary for the code to comply with the US export laws which include the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), the same laws restricting exports to Huawei.
Open source code is one of the most important aspects of the Internet. Several online services such as Netflix, Instagram and more are primarily based on open source technologies.
GitHub is said to be the largest aggregator of open source code. Millions of open source projects such as the Linux operating system and so on are primarily hosted using GitHub. With Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub, it became an American company which may require it to comply with all the U.S trade laws such as the EAR regulation as well.
“For developers, source code is a very important resource,” said Liu Chen, director of operations for Open Source China (OSChina).
However, the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), another leading US-based organization to offer open source software said that the fears about open source code may be overblown. They published an announcement on Wednesday stating that the open source code and collaboration are not subject to the EAR.
But the export control rules on GitHub have raised concerns in several users in the Chinese open source community. Many of them find the prospect of being restricted from accessing open source code to be an alarming phenomenon.
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“So this is really bad because the progress of internet evolution could be slowed down. Open source projects… [benefit] too many parties all around the world, not just from the US or China. There’s no single company or party or country that could escape from open source projects today,” said Duzy Chan, a Chinese open source software developer on GitHub.
An anonymous user commented that restricted access to GitHub may not hurt the personal users. Iran and North Korea are among the few countries restricted from using GitHub’s Enterprise Server.
China too recognizes the importance of GitHub and open source community and has kept GitHub unblocked in its country though GitHub hosts several censorship circumvention tools.
As of now, GitHub hasn’t responded on the issue. It is, however, clear that there is unrest among the Chinese developer community on the prospect of being restricted from the world’s largest open source platform.