Jelurida Files Lawsuit Against Apollo Blockchain For License Violations Over Nxt Code
16 July 2020
Lugano, Switzerland (July 14, 2020): Apollo, a blockchain whose code was cloned from Nxt, has been summoned to court to face allegations of continuous license violations. In documents served July 10, lawyers representing Jelurida, the software company that developed Nxt, have detailed how Apollo copied and used Nxt code without fully complying with the Jelurida Public License (JPL). A writ of summons has been filed in the Netherlands and the case will be heard on August 25 in Amsterdam. The court case has implications for the widespread illicit practice of cloning blockchain code, and open source software in general, without authorization and acknowledgement.
The writ of summons served by Jelurida's defense team explains: "The Nxt Blockchain was developed entirely by the Jelurida enterprise and its legal predecessors. Jelurida currently owns all rights – including intellectual property rights, such as copyrights – associated with or contained in the Nxt Software."
It continues: "Apollo copied source code files from the Nxt Software one-on-one into the Apollo Software. In addition, Apollo modified source code files of the Nxt Software and included these in the source code for the Apollo Software."
Since 2017, Nxt's code has been released under the JPL which is an open source license similar to the GNU General Public License v2. Just like the GPL, the JPL was designed with the intention of other crypto projects utilizing the code, and contains certain conditions that must be met in order to do so. The JPL grants users of the Nxt code broad rights to use and modify the code, while also ensuring that Jelurida's work is recognized and preserved.
In 2018, Apollo launched as an Nxt clone but failed to adhere to the JPL license terms. After ignoring four cease and desist letters, Apollo belatedly complied in August 2018. The compliance proved short-lived, however, and in October 2019 Apollo replaced the JPL in its software with a proprietary license.
This constitutes a violation of the JPL, which amongst others requires that any derived work continue to be distributed only under exactly the same license. This viral "copyleft" requirement is a cornerstone of many open source licenses, most notably the GPL. The enforceability of such requirements is critical for the success of open source software. As a consequence, lawyers representing Jelurida were prompted to send further cease and desist letters, but had to initiate court proceedings after Apollo failed to update its software to reinstate the JPL.
The writ of summons now urges: "If Apollo no longer wishes to use the Nxt Software as part of the Apollo Coin or the Apollo Software, Apollo will need to start a new blockchain (based on software developed by Apollo itself or by third parties), or start a crypto coin based on a different existing blockchain (such as Bitcoin's or Ethereum's)."
In pursuing the matter through the courts, Jelurida is demonstrating its desire to foster responsible use of open source licenses, while sending a message that free to use does not mean free of all stipulations.
Founded in the Netherlands in 2016, Jelurida is a software company that develops and maintains the Ardor and Nxt blockchains. Now a multinational organization with offices on three continents, Jelurida is focused on helping enterprises capitalize on the benefits of blockchain through making it easier to deploy applications connected to the open Ardor and Nxt networks. For more information please visit: www.jelurida.com.