Rationale of our license

We are strong supporters of open source software, and in fact, an early version of our mix-net was released under LGPL many years ago. Here we elaborate on our decision to not use an open source license and the main features of the license.

Why not open source?

The development costs of our mix-net is estimated at approximately 1.5 million USD by third parties using standard tools and methods, and we have only managed to cover a negligible fraction of this with license fees so far. We can not continue to spend time on the software unless we at least are able to cover our expenses.

Typical open source projects grow organically, often as a result of companies working in the open source business model adding features as part of consultancy services or support. We have instead done all the work in advance and do not focus on services.

We welcome a strong sponsor that buys our software, release it under an open source license, and provide funding for further development, but without such a sponsor demanding license fees is the only way for us to cover our costs.

Remark for our fellow researchers

Researchers are used to release their code under open source licenses. Thus, it is only natural that they expect us to do the same, since we are also researchers. There are several reasons why this is not a reasonable request today:

  1. We did release an open source version of our mix-net many years under the LGPL license many years ago and this is still used commercially, so it is clearly good enough for research purposes. Anybody can use this for free and continue development.
  2. The vast majority of our software development is funded privately by the founder and has not been done as part of any research project. The work has been done outside working hours. We have sacrificed vacations, weekends, and nights for 9 years.
  3. Going from a research prototype (which was the case 2008) to a fully documented quality product with zero dependencies is at least 5-8 times as much work as simply combining various open source libraries into a working prototype for research purposes. Product development is not research and must not be funded by research grants, since funding agencies must not compete with commercial companies.
  4. Verificatum AB is a company and we must cover many costs for administration, equipment, lawyers, business advice that are covered by the university in a research project.
  5. In Sweden there is something called "teachers exception" which means that researchers at universities own all intellectual property resulting from their research. This is an employee benefit stipulated by Swedish law that compensates a lower salary.

We kindly ask researchers to accept that it is fair that we are paid for our work like you are.

License fees

We think license fees should be fair, predictable, and allow licensees to cooperate, but we also need funding to continue our work. More precisely, the rationale of the license fee scheme is the following:

Transfer of all rights to modified software

We demand that the rights to all modified software created by licensees is transfered to us and not only covered by the license.

We need this liberty to make the terms of the license more liberal if it turns out to be unsuitable in some way. Incompatible licenses have historically been a problem with open source software and we want to avoid this.

We stress that we do not have any exclusive rights to modified software.

Use of our trademarks

We require that complete systems based on our software state this explicitly alongside the name of the complete system. We similarly demand that any logotype for the complete system incorporates a smaller version of our logotype.

We are a commercial business that need visibility of our trademarks to gain recognition, but even if we were an open source project it would be fair to place our trademarks prominently.

We may decide to waive this requirement for selected clients.

No support by default

We can obviously not blindly commit to support modified software created by others.

We intend to keep our software up to date and further develop it, but we can not commit to a general support agreement in the license, since we have no control over who uses our software, how it is used, or how many users there are until we receive usage reports.

Thus, developers and users that need comprehensive support can negotiate this separately with us, provide their own support, or use the support of third parties. To encourage the latter two choices we offer courses, where the content is tailor made in cooperation with the client.

Open source licenses vs. our license

There are several open source licenses, and although all of them are free of charge, several of them are quite restrictive. For example (L)GPL does not allow deep integration of (L)GPL software and proprietary software. Only linking with clean interfaces is allowed.

It is important to understand that for research purposes our license is more liberal than many open source licenses and apart from the license fees it is for election purposes more liberal than many open source licenses in how the software can be modified and used.

Thus, our license is incomparable with open source licenses and not more restrictive. Our goal has been to have a license that is as liberal as possible, have as low license fees as possible, and still be able to continue development.

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