LICENSING: Are you dead set on GPL3?

I had the chance to see/ask this question to Paige at the Bitcoins in the Kingdom conference in Orlando.

I’m one of the team members of OpenBazaar, currently looking for a stable DHT implementation to use on OpenBazaar, what I’ve read about Maidsafe routing seems to fit our needs, until one reads the licensing.

On Paige’s talk, she mentioned that one of your core missions was something along the lines of creating the protocols for a decentralized internet.

From a strategic point of view, I want to ask if it’s being debated among you in the company to change the licensing of core components that make decentralization happen, for instance DHT based routing.

In the specific case of OpenBazaar, we have very big issues to adopt and contribute to your technology simply because of the licensing. On one hand we don’t know if we’d even be allowed to use your technology as a non-commercial entity because even though we’re a purely open and free community technological effort our software’s purpose is mainly commercial for the end users, so would our users have to pay Maidsafe?

And then, even if you guys gave us the go, then we can’t use your source code because it’s GPL3 and this license happens to be a viral open source license which would disencourage the enterprise sector from using and extending our technology without opening their sources, yet possibly providing more nodes to our p2p network.

We changed our own license from GPL to MIT because we’re looking to create a protocol for Smart Contract exchanges, if we were to force anyone to open their source we know our protocol would never be adopted, specially by bigger technology players whose interests might not align with opening all of their sources and we’d end up losing in the end.

I wonder if you don’t see the same problem for yourselves as a tremendously limiting factor for the adoption of your technology and your ideal of creating a decentralized internet, or if there are any workaround to using your technology as a component so that we don’t have to contaminate our sources with GPL licensing?


I think we will find a way, you would be in a similar position mind you if you used ethereum form what I can believe. If you give Nick a shout then I am sure he will sort you out though. We are super keen to never stand in anyone’s way, of course GPL/BSD/MIT wars are ferocious with all differing views. GPL does prevent commercial entities from any adopt extend and destroy. It also may stand i the way of large companies adopting, so yes its a current active discussion for sure.

Bottom line though we will work to ensure people can use this code and hopefully contribute back for the benefit of all.


GPL all the way.

Build a better, more open future for our children :slight_smile:


the problem with the GPL, is that forced freedom is not freedom.

therefore it’s not for everyone, and you want maidsafe to be for everyone if it’s to become the technology driver for a decentralized internet.


I just sent you a PM @gubatron. Licensing is a very emotive subject.


An announcement of sorts would be nice, if OpenBazaar utilize Maidsafe libraries.

OpenBazaar native on the SAFEnetwork would make sense.

Agreed Chris, if we can get to a place where both parties are comfortable we would shout it from the roof tops, combined with some more sophisticated marketing techniques :smiley:.


Dont give in. GPL is not a “contamination.” Its a plea for cash in no matter how rational it may sound. Its a bribe.

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Its not about giving in @Warren, it would be crazy for any company to amend their entire licensing strategy based on one company. We need to build on a license that is going to best serve the interests of the network, community and the world’s Internet users.


Hear hear!

@nicklambert sent a response back via PM, thanks so much for taking the time.

Licensing is indeed a very emotive subject.

I try to look at it from a practical point of view.

GPL won’t protect anyone from IP theft, the code is already public and if a bad actor wants to use the technology and hide it, they’ll be able to do so if they really want to. In the case of getting caught, if it’s a big corporate entity, it’ll probably have more legal resources than what maidsafe will be willing to use to go after (unless your business model relies on suing people, like those companies that hoard patents… but I doubt this is in your culture)

I say, make it accesible for those who are willing to give back (even if they want to use it behind closed doors) with a license that works for everyone, those that aren’t going to give back won’t give back any way, GPL or not.

If you want to build advanced enterprise technology of your own, the MIT license allows Maidsafe itself to close the more advanced software abstractions built upon the P2P foundational tools (Official Maidsafe non free apps), which is where I see the revenue for Maidsafe to have a sustainable business model in the open.

As things are, I believe right now the only legal option is to create a binary component that uses the maidsafe source code to create a service on a separate process and then talk to it via RPC as a work around, so much overhead working like that.

This is a given, regardless of license. I think this is a fundamental driving force in MaidSafe and we can make this happen. A lot of the other info can be personal and at times emotive. To me if large co’s wish to steal at any cost then that is another matter (and can be overblown), I am interested in the recent moves towards, it is either open source or untrusted attitude by a growing populous. So we will never stop any project using the codebase, but we do have a doubt over legal theft, so free with the requirement to give back si superb. I am sure it is also possible, but I am not sure GPL now stops that. It is a very interesting quandary to pontificate. In the short term we will negotiate any terms that ensure openness freedom etc. are upheld.


I don’t like any of the so-called “software licenses”. I personally view all information as being in the public domain because information is not scarce and therefore there is no need to define property rights in ideas. For software, I tend to use the Unlicense template to make it obvious to other people that I am dedicating my code to the public domain. For things other than software, I tend to use the Creative Commons CC0 waiver.

Unlicense Yourself: Set Your Code Free

What is the Unlicense?

The Unlicense is a template for disclaiming copyright monopoly interest in software you’ve written; in other words, it is a template for dedicating your software to the public domain. It combines a copyright waiver patterned after the very successful public domain SQLite project with the no-warranty statement from the widely-used MIT/X11 license.

Why Use the Unlicense?

Because you have more important things to do than enriching lawyers or imposing petty restrictions on users of your code. How often have you passed up on utilizing and contributing to a great software library just because its open source license was not compatible with your own preferred flavor of open source? How many precious hours of your life have you spent deliberating how to license your software or worrying about licensing compatibility with other software? You will never get those hours back, but here’s your chance to start cutting your losses. Life’s too short, let’s get back to coding.

I don’t really care whether MaidSafe changes its license or not, because I don’t like to think about these sort of issues, but I definitely think that it would be in their best interest to dedicate everything they do to the public domain. Or the MIT license would be a step in right direction because it’s less restrictive than GPLv3.

For one thing, it could accelerate adoption. Wouldn’t it be great if the next version of Windows, OS X, iOS, etc. was integrated natively with the SAFE Network? Apple could switch to the SAFE Network instead of iCloud. Or Dropbox could start using the SAFE Network instead of Amazon S3. Or Internet Explorer could start letting people browse safe:// websites. All of this would allow more people to start using the SAFE Network and perhaps in the future they will choose to buy devices with the SAFE operating system preinstalled or they will try to install it on the devices that they already have.


One good example is Tim Berners-Lee, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, who decided to release WorldWideWeb (the first web browser) and libwww (which became the foundation of later web browsers and servers) into the public domain.

In 1991 and 1992, Tim Berners-Lee and a student at CERN named Jean-Francois Groff rewrote various components of the original WorldWideWeb browser for the NeXTstep operating system in portable C code, in order to demonstrate the potential of the World Wide Web. In the beginning libwww was referred to as the Common Library and was not available as a separate product. In the May 1993 World Wide Web Newsletter Berners-Lee announced that the Common Library was now called libwww and was licensed as public domain to encourage the development of web browsers. He initially considered releasing the software under the GNU General Public License, rather than into the public domain, but decided against it due to concerns that large corporations such as IBM would be deterred from using it by the restrictions of the GPL.


More information here:

By 1991, Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau developed a web browser and server for the
Next operating system. To increase the web’s popularity, the web browser and server
code were freely available to the public. Berners-Lee announced this on Internet
newsgroups such as alt.hypertext. These actions broadened the audience from a small
group of high-energy physicists to the broader academic community. In turn, the
academic community sent reports on problems along with requests for enhancements to
Berners-Lee (Berners-Lee, 1999).

In the summer of 1991, Richard Stallman visited CERN and talked about the Free
Software Foundation (FSF). The FSF was based around the development of free software
with programmers largely volunteering their labor (Gillies & Cailliau, 2000). Berners-Lee
did not have a staff inside CERN and recognized that this community of volunteers
could help design web browsers for other popular computer operating systems such as
Unix (Berners-Lee, 1999). Berners-Lee began publicly touting the development of web
browsers as good projects for university students. As a result, students from Helsinki
University wrote Erwise, the first web browser for a Unix operating system (Berners-Lee, 1999).

To further encourage the development of the web, Berners-Lee asked his CERN provided
programmer to develop the individual pieces or bricks of code, which other
programmers could build upon. Berners-Lee further required the code be rewritten in C, a
common language for portable code, even though it meant rewriting the code from his
original web browser (Berners-Lee, 1999). These pieces, named libwww, became the
foundation of many web applications including web browsers and web servers. Their portability allowed these pieces to be used with different computer operating systems (Gillies & Cailliau, 2000).

Libwww was available to the public as public domain software (Berners-Lee,
1983). Berners-Lee considered releasing libwww under the FSF’s GPL license. However,
there were rumors that large companies, such as IBM, would not use the web if there was
any kind of licensing issue. This came on the heels of the Gopher internet technology,
which was widely abandoned when the University of Minnesota began requiring licenses
for commercial use (Berners-Lee, 1999). Berners-Lee decided to release the code into the
public domain, thus placing no restrictions on its use. This strategy worked, and within a
year there were multiple browsers for Unix systems, and browsers were appearing for
Macintosh and Windows operating systems (Gillies & Cailliau, 2000).

Berners-Lee’s motivation was to persuade the computing community to adopt the
web. He believed the web would be extraordinarily valuable to society. He did not act for
his own financial gain. In fact, at several junctures, Berners-Lee decided to remain the
benevolent father of the web. He put his vision of the web ahead of personal financial
gain (Berners-Lee, 1999). Today, Berners-Lee is the head of the World Wide Web
Consortium, which is dedicated to developing open standards to unlock the full potential
of the web.


Very good research @frabrunelle Interesting


Thank you @frabrunelle:

Libwww was available to the public as public domain software (Berners-Lee,
1983). Berners-Lee considered releasing libwww under the FSF’s GPL license. However,
there were rumors that large companies, such as IBM, would not use the web if there was
any kind of licensing issue. This came on the heels of the Gopher internet technology,
which was widely abandoned when the University of Minnesota began requiring licenses
for commercial use (Berners-Lee, 1999). Berners-Lee decided to release the code into the
public domain, thus placing no restrictions on its use. This strategy worked, and within a
year there were multiple browsers for Unix systems, and browsers were appearing for
Macintosh and Windows operating systems (Gillies & Cailliau, 2000).

With that I don’t think I have to explain myself any more. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation had he chosen the GPL.


It is interesting and I am on that side of the fence to, but wonder did Apple help BSD by using their code or did bsd allow Apple to recover? I see bsd in need of cash and that is a shame.

I think though the open source movement is getting stronger and there is less need to force it (like gpl), but at the same time is it strong enough ?

Remember we are having this conversation on an open protocol probably with many closed source products like chrome/explorer/safari so half there cause of public domain and half due to closed source (unfortunately, I know chromium/firefox etc are also players).

I actually like Richard Stallmans arguments but am acutely aware of the current barriers GPL may create. Also though the slew of code we would not be able to include in libs, which is not so much of an issue now as we have all the functionality we need.

Yes interesting indeed, a never ending no win situation at the moment, I think it is a vi/emacs in many ways. Full public domain is very attractive though.


How so?

Maidsafe have the best decentralized technology going around and anyone will soon be able to build anything on the API. Not sure what more a bootstrapped project could desire.

Now if you don’t believe in the SAFEproject and you to want pluck libraries to build a project within the existing paradigm…then as a fan…I’m not cool with that.

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I see GPL as a reaction to excessive copyright protection provided by states. I would rather have no copyright and no GPL. However, this will not be a reality any time soon, so it’s a tough call.

I would be most concerned about closed source forks destabilizing the network. I am not sure what the risk of that would be, but clearly It is not desirable.

There was an interesting thread on Reddit recently where OpenBazaar devs claimed they could reuse more when NOT using GPL. Seems they got proven wrong :wink: