Future Shock: Is Copying Inevitable in the Crypto World?

Jonathan Stoker Feb 01, 2024, 23:20pm 98 views

Future Shock: Is Copying Inevitable in the Crypto World?

Code Plagiarism in Crypto: The Case of Blast and Optimism

Blockchain researcher 0xKaden recently accused Blast, a controversial crypto project, of copying OptimismOptimism$3.67 -1.41%'s code and presenting it as original. Blast is a project that has spurred interest as well as criticism. The project, despite employing questionable marketing strategies, successfully raised over $1 billion last year. The primary charge levelled against Blast is the theft of work already published by Optimism, one of EthereumEthereum$2,315 -2.42%'s largest L2s.

What did Blast do?

0xKaden highlighted that Blast had put a BSL license on Optimism's code, which is under an MIT license. The MIT license is a permissive software license credited to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It gives copyright credit to authors but allows others to access, remix, and use code freely, usually with proper credit given. In contrast, the Business Source License (BSL) does not subscribe to the open-source philosophy.

Close on the heels of 0xKaden's accusation, another pseudonymous blockchain detective known as Pop Punk, spotted that sections of Blast and Optimism's code were indeed identical, barring a few minor adjustments.

Controversies Surrounding Blast

This is not the inaugural controversy centering around Blast. The project had an impressive pedigree, with backing from respected venture capital firm Paradigm and Tieshun "Pacman" Roquerre, the brains behind the highly successful decentralized NFT exchange Blur. However, the project faced significant controversy following its launch.

When launched, Blast had only implemented a one-way bridge allowing depositing of funds, but not withdrawal, which could only be done in February 2024 at the earliest. Additionally, Blast raised over $1.1 billion before hiring engineers, highlighting potential security issues.

Another point of contention was Blast's aggressive solicitation of deposits and the hyping of the project. The project promised an airdrop in May, determined through a points system. This move was criticized by Dan Robinson, a general partner at Paradigm, who stated that it cheapened the efforts of a serious team and set an unhealthy precedent for other projects.

Blast's Business Model

Despite its controversies, Blast's business model is an interesting one. The project plans to provide annual yields around 4%-5% earned by depositing ETH on Lido and leveraging MakerDAO's DAI Savings Rate. Blast also intends to incentivize growth through a referral system and other gamified ways of earning points. One of their propositions is to incentivize outside development by allotting 100% of gas fees to developers working on the network.

The Blast Controversy: A Matter of Norms

The question is now about the extent to which a project like Blast can bend the cultural norms of crypto and the law itself to make a name for itself and build a user base. Although copying code is a standard practice in crypto, since open-source communities view information sharing as beneficial, Blast's decision to copyright code, especially code it appears to have copied, signals a deviation from these norms. The MIT license is permissionless, which means Blast was free to use, remix and distribute Optimism's code as long as its version was also made open-source.

Is There a Precedent for Plagiarism in Crypto?

Plagiarism issues have occurred in the crypto space. For instance, Matter Labs and PolygonPolygon$0.967 -3.65% had a dispute over the failure of the former to appropriately credit the latter for using its open-source code. Another example is Uniswap, which sparked controversy when it announced its upcoming V4 release under a slightly-restrictive license, aiming to benefit from its intellectual property for a longer duration. These situations highlight the complexities and lack of clear-cut solutions in a space where even rivals are collaborators due to the design of open blockchains.

While copyright protections exist to ensure that those who contribute something meaningful derive benefits from their work, the matter at hand is what exactly Blast is contributing and whether it merits legal protection. These are issues that require further exploration and discourse in the rapidly evolving world of blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Edited by Jonathan Stoker

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