[License-review] Request for Approval of 'CasperLabs Open Source License (COSL)

Lukas Atkinson opensource at lukasatkinson.de
Tue Dec 10 15:52:06 UTC 2019

I don't see this license as a good candidate for approval. The main goal of
the license seems to be to cement a particular business model, not to
further software freedom. It is also a very unusual and complex license,
without accompanying rationale for that complexity. Selected objections:

* By referencing some parts of the Apache 2.0 license, the document is very
complex. But beyond importing some definitions and individual fragments,
there is no real relation to the Apache license, despite what the Preamble
section says.

* The license is specific to one “subject matter code base” per section 2.
Indeed, the suggested license-proliferation category is “non-reusable”. But
should new licenses in that category be approved? The license review
process documentation on the OSI website is not entirely clear on that

* The document imposes onerous obligations on any licensor, such as to
designate moderators for a community forum (section 8). While the term
“COSLv1.0 Licensor” is not defined, it probably relies on the Apache 2.0
term “Licensor”, which includes any Contributor. This feels like a license

* The license terminates on unrelated activities, e.g. “Interfering with
the Economic Operation of the Decentralized Platform”. That in turn is
defined very broadly, including running DApps in a manner that changes the
price of underlying cryptocurrencies. (The relevant sentence in section 7
is grammatically ambiguous, and could possibly also prohibit seeking to
develop any DApp).

* In addition to being specific to a project, the license is also specific
to distributed ledger technology. In contrast, the CAL manages to be geared
to a similar subject matter, without being specific to it.

* Forking the project is subject to onerous terms, e.g. “Where code in a
Fork is to be used to deploy a new independent blockchain with a
cryptocurrency, […] that party is to notify the COSLv1.0 Licensor with an
offer to compensate development efforts of the Community”.

* Many terms seem to boil down “the Licensor gets to decide”. That's not a
license, that is process documentation.

* Many links in the license are not stable, but point to the master branch
of some Git repo.

* The various requirements of the license are problematic in themselves,
but they also clash with the OSD, e.g. arguably OSD #6 No Discrimination
Against Fields of Endeavor, OSD #8 License Must Not Be Specific to a
Product, OSD #10 License Must Be Technology-Neutral. I am not convinced
that OSD #3 “The license must allow modifications” is fully fulfilled due
to the various restrictions. The license terms also present an expansion of
copyleft into the field of community governance and economic concerns,
which is rather novel.

Some of these objections could be resolved with a revision of a license,
but I'm not sure that a license that is OSI-acceptable would still meet
CasperLab's licensing goals.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.opensource.org/pipermail/license-review_lists.opensource.org/attachments/20191210/2d81c094/attachment.html>

More information about the License-review mailing list