Sept. 13, 2021: Copyright Theft is a Crime ⚖️📜

Solana copycat Saber rattles Curve with IP Theft

We’re passing judgement left and right. After last week judging neither cryptocurrency nor Curve to be a crime, we’ve got to throw the prosecutors a bone. So here goes — copyright theft is in fact a crime.

It turns out this judgement is relevant to the chain wars. Just a few weeks ago we saw signs that Curve would be launching on Solana. However, a team called “Saber” jumped the gun and quickly brought an imitation to market first. Over the past week their volume locked shot up vertically, making it the largest Solana project with over $4 billion.

The only issue is that the project appears to be a sloppy copy pasta of Curve.

How sloppy? At one point they hardcode the magic number 4, explaining it “comes from Curve, originating from some sort of calculus.”

That’s who I want managing my billions of dollars! #notfinancialadvice

In fact, the team has already hit some small turbulence caused by imprecise token rounding, though fortunately it looks as if nobody lost any funds.

Other than criminal stupidity of putting your money into projects where the developers are second rate cover artists (see also, Binance Smart Chain), some users struggled to understand why this action may be potentially criminal when Curve code is open source. None of this is legal advice, of course.

Just as the word free can mean different things depending on whether you’re talking about speech or beer, so it goes for open source depending on what license you use. You may leave the front door to your house open, but it’s still illegal for people to walk inside and rob it. It’s a completely different situation if you post a sign saying people have an open invitation to take whatever they want.

“Open source” code is often used to refer to code published with no restrictions towards its use. However it can also refer to code where the source is available to view, but it was published under a license. In fact, by default, code published to Github has all rights reserved to the author unless stated otherwise.

Curve has been very careful about its protection of its intellectual property. For instance, one could copy the DAO or CRV token code with very few restrictions, and sure enough we see several projects freely copying Curve’s tokenomics.

However the pool IP is tightly controlled. It’s possible to rebuild Curve from scratch without violating the copyright, and some have even done so successfully. Yet very few understand Curve’s math so they generally just copy it line-by-line. This is the distinction between a work being derivative versus being plagiarized.

To date Curve has not enforced its IP against violators mostly because it didn’t make business sense. The most flagrant copycat, Saddle, has under $200MM volume locked and plummeting. It may seem like a lot of money to you and me, but would it be worth Egorov’s time to pick it up he passed such an amount lying on the street?

This summer, the Curve DAO considered CIP-XX to do exactly this — create a structure for lawyers to enforce IP and return profits from lawsuits to veCRV holders. In this case, the business opportunity was judged to be not worthwhile so the project was scrapped.

However with several billions locked in Saber, it seems to be an amount that’s piqued Curve’s attention. So what’s the plan of action?

^^ OK, that made me laugh out loud, even though we already looked it over and judged Curve is not a crime.

Curve has suggested it has a few options it could use to fight back, both of them violent.

We’re not privy to Curve’s strategic thinking here, but the public punditry has already deduced likely options.

Whatever the actual options are, Curve appears disinclined towards pursuing the “boring” legal route.

What is left may simply be to outcompete Saber on its home turf. Curve has a pretty good track record on this front. Curve launched later than Uniswap, but thanks to the latter’s remedial understanding of math, Curve would end up out-competing on most metrics other than VC tweets. If Curve did head to Solana, might it run circles around the primitive DeFi primitive?

We’ll have to wait and see where Curve developers eventually go — though a cursory read of their Github leaks plenty more alpha than even the paid version of this substack.

We know Curve development is focusing a lot of effort on deploying to new chains. Solana would be a good target here. Solana has rocketed up in value locked, doubling in just the past week.

While in absolute terms, talk of flippening Ethereum is mostly just marketing hype, it’s still an impressive run.

Much of this development consists of cloning successful Ethereum projects. The NFT community is also reckoning with this issue.

The bear argument: Solana is a faster BSC, expect faster and cheaper rugs

The bull argument: what rational investor would bet against SBF?

You decide!


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