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Amendment of Bitcoin’s Open License Proposed to Dampen Fork Mania

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Amendment of Bitcoin’s Open License Proposed to Dampen Fork Mania

The current whirlwind of hard forks such as Bitcoin Gold, Bitcoin Diamond, Bitcoin Cash and others have worsened the confusion about the very idea of Bitcoin and thus harming it in many ways.

It is believed that many projects are unduly exploiting the liberal MIT open license which underpins Bitcoin’s core code to attack the blockchain network. Hence, confusing the public in order to gain personal profit in a way which is seriously hurting the Bitcoin ecosystem.

However, these exploitations may have a provided a trigger to look for new approaches to shield Bitcoin‘s core code from being abused.

What is the MIT License?

The MIT License (also known as the X11 license or MIT X license) is a permissive free software license that was originally developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Therefore, when an author makes the software accessible under the MIT License, they give the authorization to utilize, share and modify the product at no extra cost.

Proposed Changes

The new proposal, which has been recommended on a mailing list for Bitcoin developers maintained by the Linux Foundation, includes the inclusion of a wording on the MIT License that would make it difficult for subsequent forks to profit off Bitcoin’s brand.

In particular, the proposed changes disallows the use of any name associated with Bitcoin in any new project for marketing purpose, except it is compatible with the Bitcoin’s core blockchain.

Jose Femenias Canuelo wrote on February 13:

“…I’d like to raise the possibility of amending the MIT license in a simple way, by adding a line such as:

***
NO PART OF THIS SOFTWARE CAN BE INCLUDED IN ANY OTHER PROJECT THAT USES THE NAME BITCOIN AS PART OF ITS NAME AND/OR ITS MARKETING MATERIAL UNLESS THE SOFTWARE PRODUCED BY THAT PROJECT IS FULLY COMPATIBLE WITH THE BITCOIN (CORE) BLOCKCHAIN
***

(This is just an approximation. A final version would probably have to include a restriction to some soundalikes like BITKOIN, BIITCOIN,…).”

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Mixed Views on The New Proposal  

Developers in support of this new change believe that reusing Bitcoin’s license by other forks is an attack on Bitcoin.

For instance, Aymeric Vitte – a bitcoin-dev list contributor – highlighted major issues associated with reusing the cryptocurrency’s core code such as the Replay Attack, referring to the duplication of transactions that may occur on forked chains as well as Bitcoin’s original blockchain:

“Maybe people like to get ‘free’ coins, but they are misleaded (sic), they can lose everything, and there are some more vicious side effects, like replay protection collisions between forks.”

Other developers, such as Felix Wolfsteler, are opposed to the change partly because there are few issues with the solution. First of all, the ownership of Bitcoin’s core software is not clear. For example, the MIT Digital Currency Initiative which is maintained by a group of developers provides funding for development cost. Hence, it would be difficult for someone to assert possession and sue another individual for using the software.

Additionally, the MIT Licence which is widely used in open source software projects to encourage innovation and collaboration might discourage further innovations on Bitcoin’s blockchain, if there are changes to its licensing.

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