Trezor is quickly becoming a household brand name in the world of Bitcoin and digital currency, and the company makes an excellent Bitcoin hardware wallet to safely store your funds. Even though the user-friendliness might leave a bit to be desired for novice users, we have played around with a Trezor ourselves and see the potential offered by this device. Over the past few days, there was some confusion an even outrage because Trezor suddenly changed their license.
Changing From LGPLv3 To A Microsoft Shared Source License
A few days ago, several threads appeared on the Bitcoin subreddit, talking about how Trezor changed their software license all of a sudden. Needless to say, this came as a huge surprise and a bit of a shock to many Bitcoin enthusiasts, as no warning or indication was given in advance. The lack of an official statement from Trezor wasn’t helping matters either at that point in time.
Microsoft Shared Source Licenses may sound “open”, and several versions of this license are pretty open to other developers. However, the Trezor folks decided to change their LGPLv3 license to the most restrictive Microsoft Shared Source License. As a result, the Trezor software source code was made available to view for reference purposes only, and developers were no longer allowed to modify and distribute the code for commercial purposes.
If that in itself wasn’t suspicious enough, the fact they changed the GitHub commit history with a forced push to make it look like the license change occurred 6 months ago threw a lot of red flags across the community. Many people openly voiced their concern and outrage about the changes being made by Trezor, and no one was too pleased with the lack of communication.
Last but not least, one of the Trezor founders went as far as claiming that version 1.3 of the Trezor software wasn’t even LGPL licensed to begin with. As you can imagine, a lot of confusion and outrage, and far more questions than we had answers to at that point in time. However, it turns out that Trezor did this in order to protect the Bitcoin community in their own way.
Chinese Knock-off Bitcoin Hardware Wallets To Blame
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against devices manufactured in China if they can be beneficial to the general community. Especially when it comes to technology, you are often better off with devices bought in China (or from Chinese suppliers) compared to more traditional “Western world” companies or suppliers. Smartphones are a great example of the point I am trying to male.
When it comes to Bitcoin hardware wallets however, the story may be slightly different. Granted, several components are probably manufactured in China already, so would it really make that much of a difference? Other than the price that is, is “original” Chinese-manufactured devices are a lot cheaper compared to bigger brands.
However, a cheaper device doesn’t necessarily mean it is better than the original. In this case, BWallet, the Chinese knockoff version of the Trezor wallet, is priced at the very sharp price of roughly US$30. Comparing this to Trezor’s price of US$119, you could see why a lot of novice users would rather go for the cheaper option.
The biggest point of concern is the fact that the BWallet team has copied Trezor’s source code and made some heavy modifications to it, not all of which are too clear as to what they would do exactly. BWallet even went as far as using the same USB Vendor ID as Trezor, which caused a lot of outrage on their Reddit thread. USB Vendor IDs are unique, and can only be used by the company they officially belong to.
To buy a Bwallet Hardware Bitcoin Wallet, click here :
Official Statement from SatoshiLabs (The company behind Trezor)
Late last night, a new blog post appeared on the SatoshiLabs website explaining why they changed the Trezor software license. The reason for making the software open source (LGPLv3) in the beginning was because Satoshilabs felt that a security device designed to hold Bitcoins, has to be as transparent as possible. This includes completely open sourcing the original software.
Furthermore, SatoshiLabs wanted developers to tinker around with their software, extend the possibilities and build upon the original software to bring Trezor to new levels of capabilities. However, it is important to note that while the software was open sourced, that does not mean it can be copied without any added value.
In order to keep the auditability and security of the Trezor hardware Bitcoin Wallet intact, SatoshiLabs changed the license of their software to Ms-RSL a few days ago. SatoshiLabs does admit this change may have been a bit impulsive, but it was a genuine statement of how the company felt at that point in time. As they state so themselves : “Our ideals were being crushed.”
Long story short, SatoshiLabs has reverted the license change, and the Trezor software is once again open sourced under the LGPLv3 license.