Proof of Authorship for Open Source Projects

3 min read

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The Challenge

Complex software is usually not developed by individuals but is often developed in collaborations. This applies in particular to open source projects such as Linux. If a user violates the license conditions of an open source project, any co-author can demand that the user refrains from illegal actions.

But if someone claims in court to be co-author of an open source project, he must be able to prove it. This evidence can be difficult to provide in practice.

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The Solution

With OriginStamp, co-authors of open source projects now have a convenient and tamper-proof possibility to document their authorship. In particular, OriginStamp can be used to prove that a dataset already existed at a certain point in time and has not been changed since. Such a dataset can, for example, consist of the last changes made to an open source project by a specific author.

This dataset can then be extended by an unambiguous reference to the author. Such a reference would be given e.g. by the name, the date of birth and the place of residence of the author. The existence of this entire data set, which documents the authorship of the author in the open source project, can then be unalterably documented in public blockchains.

To achieve this, a first step involves creating a cryptographic fingerprint (hash) of the data record. Thereafter it is the task of OriginStamp to publish this fingerprint worldwide on public blockchains, such as the Bitcoin Blockchain.

Thus, more than 10,000 nodes of public blockchains distributed all over the world immediately become witnesses of the hash of the data documenting the development of the software. Furthermore, all nodes agree on a time at which the hash will be included in the blockchain for the first time.

This point in time is the point in time from which the author is demonstrably associated with the last changes to the source code. The manipulation security is given since a change in the dataset would immediately lead to a change in its hash and thus to the loss of the validity of the timestamp.

Because OriginStamp is very cost effective and easy to use, OriginStamp is the perfect tool to help open source projects with copyright issues.



After many years, we haven’t seen any court action, yet. Why? We suppose, that all potential claims were accepted thanks to our Blockchain-timestamping evidence and no court action even was needed. Therefore, we cannot guarantee for the acceptance of a Blockchain timestamp at court. We are only aware of one decision in China, where the Blockchain-based timestamp had been accepted as sufficient evidence.

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