BOSL exceptions added for Zcash projects and friendly forks

Recent discussions in the community have been centered around licensing for the Orchard payment protocol, which will be deployed in NU5. For those that might not be familiar with the Bootstrap Open Source License (BOSL), ECC created this license with the goal of making open source more resistant to capture and more sustainable. 

Open-source projects have traditionally been vulnerable to two primary threats: underfunding, which threatens the sustainability of the project, and capture, in which others can turn the project to serve their interests instead of the public good, and in some cases, compete against the open-source project itself.

BOSL provides some protection against these threats but also adds complication. One downside is BOSL could create friction and uncertainty for new developers building in the Zcash ecosystem compared to familiar licenses.

When ECC announced the release of zcashd 5.0.0, we indicated our intent to add two general exceptions to the BOSL license so that our partners and friendly forks could use the Orchard technology deploying in NU5 in a manner consistent with their current licensing choice. By partners in this case, we mean projects like wallets, exchanges, block explorers, messaging apps, and the like.

We worked with attorneys to develop the exception language and have talked with key partners who confirmed these exceptions meet their licensing needs. We spoke with our partners at NightHawk, ZecWallet, and Unstoppable who all felt the exception language met their needs. We also spoke with Jason McGee from Zcash Community Grants who indicated these exceptions should work for the projects they fund.

So, today we’re happy to report we have merged the full exception text into the Orchard Github repository and updated the COPYING file with the relevant text.

In summary, the exceptions apply to the following types of projects:

  • Projects that are designed to integrate with Zcash and provide additional functionality or utility to the Zcash network and users of the ZEC coin
  • Blockchains that descend from the Zcash blockchain and that are forked within 100 blocks of the current block height at the time of the code fork

Effectively Orchard’s license is now like the familiar and broadly acceptable LGPL for building products in the Zcash ecosystem.

We see this as an incremental improvement and will continue to look for licensing improvements that remove friction for new developers, partners and adopters, while protecting the investment of ZEC users.

The Orchard payment protocol, built on the Halo proving system, will activate on mainnet May 31 as part of Network Upgrade 5 (NU5). NU5 is the largest upgrade in Zcash history, and we’re looking forward to its successful deployment and working with our partners and those interested in building on Zcash to further our mission.

Special thanks to Jack Gavigan of the Zcash Foundation, Zooko Wilcox of ECC, Alan Fairless, Bootstrap board member, and our partners for reviewing this post and providing valuable feedback.

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