IPFS and their gateways

The InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) is according to the Wikipedia description: “a protocol, hypermedia and file sharing peer-to-peer network for storing and sharing data in a distributed file system.”. It works a little like bittorrent and you typically access content on it using a very long hash in an ipfs:// URL. Like this:

ipfs://bafybeigagd5nmnn2iys2f3doro7ydrevyr2mzarwidgadawmamiteydbzi

HTTP Gateways

I guess partly because IPFS is a rather new protocol not widely supported by many clients yet, people came up with the concept of IPFS “gateways”. (Others might have called it a proxy, because that is what it really is.)

This gateway is an HTTP server that runs on a machine that also knows how to speak and access IPFS. By sending the right HTTP request to the gateway, that includes the IPFS hash you are interested in, the gateway can respond with the contents from the IPFS hash.

This way, you just need an ordinary HTTP client to access IPFS. I think it is pretty clever. But as always, the devil is in the details.

Rewrite ipfs:// into https://

The quest for IPFS aficionados have seemingly become to add support for IPFS using this gateway approach to multiple widely used applications that know how to speak HTTP(S). Just rewrite the URL internally from IPFS to HTTPS.

ffmpeg got “native” IPFS support this way, and there is ongoing work to implement the same kind of URL rewrite for curl. (into curl, not libcurl)

So far so good I guess.

The URL rewrite

The IPFS “URL rewrite” is done in such so that the example IPFS URL is converted into “https://$gateway/$hash”. The transfer is done by the client as if it was a plain old HTTPS transfer.

What if the gateway is not local?

This approach has its biggest benefit of course when you can actually use a remote IPFS gateway. I presume most random ordinary users who want to access IPFS does not actually want to download, install and run an IPFS gateway on their machine to use this new power. They might very well appreciate the idea and convenience of accessing a remote IPFS gateway.

Remote IPFS gateways illustration

After all, the gateways are using HTTPS so at least the transfers are secure, right?

Leading people behind IPFS are even running public IPFS gateways for anyone to use. Both dweb.link and ipfs.io have been mentioned and suggested for default use. Possibly they are the same physical host as they appear to have the same IP addresses (owned by Protocol Labs, one of the big proponents behind IPFS).

The IPFS project also provides a list of public gateways.

No gateway set, use a default!

In an attempt to make this even easier for users, ffmpeg is made to use a built-in default gateway if none is set by the user.

I would expect very few users to actually have an IPFS gateway set. And even fewer to actually specify a local one.

So, when users want to watch a video using ffmpeg and an ipfs:// URL what happens?

The gateway sees it all

The remote gateway, that is administered by someone, somewhere, gets to see the full incoming request, and all traffic (video, whatever) that is sent back to the client (ffmpeg in this example) goes via the gateway. Sure, the client accesses the gateway via HTTPS so nobody can tamper with the traffic along the way, but the gateway is in full control and can inspect and tamper with the data as much as it likes. And there is no way for the client to know or detect if it is happening.

I am not involved in ffmpeg, nor do I have any insights into how the discussions evolved and were done around this subject, but for curl I have put my foot down and said that we must not blindly use and trust any default remote gateway like this. I believe it is our responsibility to not lure users into this traffic-monitoring setup.

Make sure you trust the gateway you use.

The curl way

curl will probably output an error message if there was no gateway set when an ipfs:// URL is used, and inform the user that it needs a gateway set to function and probably also show a URL for a page that contains more information about what this means and how to specify a gateway.

Bouncing gateways!

During the work of making the IPFS support for curl (which I review and comment on, not written or authored myself) I have also learned that some of the IPFS gateways even do regular HTTP 30x redirects to bounce over the client to another gateway.

Meaning: not only do you use and rely a total rando’s gateway on the Internet for your traffic. That gateway might even, on its own discretion, redirect you over to another host. Possibly run somewhere else, monitored by a separate team.

I have insisted, in the PR for ipfs support to curl, that the IPFS URL handling code should not automatically follow such gateway redirects, as I believe that adds even more risk to the user so if a user wants to allow this operation, it should be opt-in.

Imagine rising use of this

I would imagine that the ones hosting a popular default gateway either becomes overloaded and slow, or they need to scale up. If they scale up, they risk to leak traffic even wider. Scaling up also makes the operation more expensive, leading to incentives to make money somehow to finance it. Will the cookie car in the form of a massive data trove perhaps then be used/sold?

Users of these gateways get no promises, no rights, no contracts.

Other IPFS privacy concerns

Brave, the browser, has actual native IPFS support (not using any gateway) and they have an informative page called How does IPFS Impact my Privacy?

Final verdict

I am not dissing the idea nor implementation of IPFS itself. I think using HTTP gateways to access IPFS is a good idea in general as it makes the network more accessible. It is just a fragile solution that easily misleads users to do things they maybe shouldn’t. So maybe a little too accessible?

Credits

Image by Hans Schwarzkopf from Pixaba

Follow-up

I poked the ffmpeg project over Twitter, there was immediate reaction and there is already a proposed patch for ffmpeg that removes the use of a default IPFS gateway. “it’s a security risk”

How I merge PRs in curl

The preferred method of providing changes to the curl project, be it source code, documentation or web site contents, is by submitting a pull-request. A “PR”. On the curl repository on GitHub.

When a proposed curl change, bugfix or improvement is submitted as a PR on GitHub, it gets built, checked, tested and verified in countless ways and a few hundred developers get a notification about it.

The first thing I do every morning and the last thing I do every night before I go to bed, is eyeing through the list of open PRs, and especially the ones with recent activities. I of course also get back to them during the day if there is activity that might need my attention – not to mention that I also personally submit by own PRs to curl at an average rate of a few per day.

You can rightly say that my day and my work with curl is extremely PR centered. And by extension, also extremely git and GitHub focused.

Merging the work

When all the CI checks run green and all review comments and concerns have been addressed, the PR has become ripe for merge.

As a general rule, we always work in the master branch as the current development branch that is destined to become the next release when the time comes. An approved PR thus gets merged into the master branch and pushed there. We keep the git history linear and clean, meaning we do merge + rebase before pushing.

Commit messages

One of the key properties of a git commit, is the commit message. The text that describes the particular change in the repository.

In the curl project we have a standard style or template for how to write these messages. This makes them consistent and helps making them useful and get populated with informational meta-data that future versions of ourselves might appreciate when we look back at the changes decades into the future.

The PR review UI on GitHub unfortunately totally ignores commit messages, which means that we cannot comment on them or insist or check that users write them in our preferred style. Arguably, it is also just quicker and easier not to do that and instead just gently brush up the message in the commit locally before the commit is pushed.

Adding correct fixes #xxx and closes #xxx information to the message also helps making sure GitHub closes the associated issues/pull-requests and allows us to map git repository commits with GitHub activities at will – like when running statistic scripts etc.

This strictness and way of working makes it impossible to use the “merge” button in the GitHub UI since we simply cannot ensure that the commit is good enough with it. The button is however not possible to remove from the UI with any settings. We just prohibit its use.

They appear as “closed this in”

This way of working makes most PRs appear as “closed this in #[commit hash]” in the GitHub UI instead of saying “merged by” that same hash. Because in GitHub’s view, the PR was not merged.

Illustration from PR 9269

GitHub could fix this with a merges keyword, which has been suggested since forever, but clearly they do not see this as a problem.

Occasional users of course get surprised or even puzzled by us closing the PR “instead of merging”, because that is what it looks like. When it really is not.

Ultimately, I consider the state and contents of our git repository and history more important than how the PRs appear on GitHub so I stick to our way of working.

Signed commits

As a little side-note, I of course also always GPG sign my commits so you can verify on GitHub and with git that my commits are genuinely done by me.

Stats

To give you an idea of the issue and pull request frequency and management in curl (the source code repository). Snapshots from the curl dashboard from August 8, 2022.

Update

Several people have mentioned to me after I posted this article that I could squash and edit the commits and force-push the work back to the user’s branch used for the PR before using the “merge” button or auto-merge feature of GitHub.

Sure, I could do it that way, but I think that is an even worse solution and a poor work-around. It is very intrusive method that would make me force-push in every user’s PR branch and I am certain a certain amount of users will be surprised by that and some even downright upset because it removes/overwrites their work. For the sake of working around a GitHub quirk. Nope, I will not do that.

Microsoft FOSS Fund Winner: curl

Hi Daniel,

My name is Emma Irwin, and I am a program manager at Microsoft, specifically working in the open source program’s office (OSPO). One of the programs I lead is the FOSS fund.

This may sound a bit odd, but normally I send an email notice to project winners, yet someone pointed out that I have missed notifying curl of their won (and I could not find any history of reaching out). As a result, I offer my sincere apologies now! – I will happily provide notice now, although the payments themselves have already started!

The Free and Open Source Software Fund (FOSS Fund) is a way for our employees to collectively select open source projects to receive $10,000 sponsorship awards throughout the year.

Microsoft’s engineers select projects they are super passionate about. Only employees who contribute to open source projects can participate in the selection process.

curl was selected in January for $10, 000.00 provided one month, for ten months through GitHub Sponsors.

Thanks very much and congratulations!

-Emma Irwin

Emma Irwin (she/her)
Senior Program Manager
Open Source Programs Office
Microsoft

Update

Discussed on reddit.

I don’t know who uses my code

When I (in spite of knowing better) talk to ordinary people about what I do for a living and the project I work on, one of the details about it that people have the hardest time to comprehend, is the fact that I really and truly don’t know a lot about who uses my code. (Or where. Or what particular features they use.)

I work on curl full-time and we ship releases frequently. Users download the curl source code from us, build curl and put it to use. Most of “my” users never tell me or anyone else in the curl project that they use curl or libcurl. This is of course perfectly fine and I probably could not even handle the flood if every user would tell me.

This not-knowing is a most common situation for Open Source authors and projects. It is not unique for me.

The not knowing your users is otherwise unusual in a world of products and software, and quite frankly, sometimes it is an obstacle for us as well since we lack a good way to communicate with users about plans, changes or ideas. It also makes it really hard to estimate our own success and the always-recurring question: how many users do you have?

To be fair: I do know quite a lot of users as well. But I don’t know how representative they are, nor how big fraction of the totals they consist of etc.

How to find out that someone uses your code

I wrote a section in Uncurled about How to find out that someone uses your code, and these are three main ways I learn about users of my code:

  1. A user of my project runs into an issue and asks for help in a project forum – without hiding where they come from or what product they make.
  2. While vanity-searching I find my project’s Open Source license mentioned for or bundled with a product or tool or device.
  3. A user emails me asking funny questions about a product I never heard of, and then I realize they found my email because that product uses my code and the license has my email in it.

curl is 8888 days old

Today on July 20 2022, curl turns exactly 8888 days old. It was born on March 20, 1998 when curl 4.0 was shipped.

The number 8 is considered a lucky number in several Asian cultures and I figure we can view this as a prequel to the planned curl version 8 release we intend to ship on curl’s 25th birthday.

Of course the precursors to curl existed well over a year before curl’s birthday, but let’s not get into that right now.

predef is our friend

For C programmers like me, who want to write portable programs that can get built and run on the widest possible array of machines and platforms, we often need to write conditional code. Code that use #ifdefs for particular conditions.

Such ifdefs expressions often need to check for a particular compiler, an operating system or perhaps even a specific version of of one those things.

Back in April 2002, Bjørn Reese created the predef project and started collecting this information on a page on Sourceforge. I found it a super useful idea and I have tried to contribute what I have learned through the years to the effort.

The collection of data has been maintained and slowly expanded over the years thanks to contributions from many friends.

The predef documents have turned out to be a genuine goldmine and a resource I regularly come back to time and time again, when I work on projects such as curl, c-ares and libssh2 and need to make sure they remain functional on a plethora of systems. I can only imagine how many others are doing the same for their projects. Or maybe should do the same…

Now, in July 2022, the team is moving the predef documents over to a brand new GitHub organization. The point being to making it more accessible and allow edits and future improvements using standard pull-requests to make ease the maintenance of them.

You find all the documentation here:

https://github.com/cpredef/predef

If you find errors, mistakes or omissions, we will of course be thrilled to see issues and pull requests filed.

5 years on OSS-Fuzz

On July 1st 2017, exactly five years ago today, the OSS-Fuzz project “adopted” curl into their program and started running fuzz tests against it.

OSS-Fuzz is a project run by Google and they do fuzzing on a large amount of open source projects: OSS-Fuzz aims to make common open source software more secure and stable by combining modern fuzzing techniques with scalable, distributed execution.

That initial adoption of curl into OSS-Fuzz was done entirely by Google themselves and its fuzzing integration was rough and not ideal but it certainly got the ball rolling.

Later in in the fall of 2017, Max Dymond stepped up and seriously improved the curl-fuzzer so that it would better test protocols and libcurl options deeper and to a higher degree. (Max subsequently got a grant from Google for his work.)

Fuzzing curl

Fuzzing is really the next-level thing all projects should have a go at when there is no compiler warning left to fix and the static code analyzers all report zero defects, because fuzzing has a way to find silly mistakes, off-by-ones etc in a way no analyzers can and that is very hard for human reviewers to match.

curl is a network tool and library written in C, it is meant to handle non-trusted data properly and doing it wrongly can have serious repercussions.

For the curl project, OSS-Fuzz has found several silly things and bad code paths especially after that rework Max put in. We have no less than 6 curl CVEs registered in 2017 and 2018 giving OSS-Fuzz (at least partial) credit for their findings.

In the first year or two, OSS-Fuzz truly kept us on our toes and we fixed numerous other flaws as well that weren’t CVE worthy but still bugs. At least 36 separate ones to date.

The beauty of OSS-Fuzz

For a little Open Source project such as curl, this service is great and in case you never worked with it let me elaborate what makes me enjoy it so much.

  1. Google runs all the servers and keeps the service running. We don’t have to admin it, spend energy on maintaining etc.
  2. They automatically pull the latest curl code from our master branch and keep fuzzing it. All day, every day, non-stop.
  3. When they find a problem, we get a bug submitted and an email sent. The bug report they create contains stack traces and a minimized and reproducible test case. In most cases, that means I can download a small file that is often less than a hundred bytes, and run my locally built fuzzer code with this input and see the same issue happen in my end.
  4. The bug they submit is initially closed for the public and only accessible to select team of curl developers.
  5. 90 days after the initial bug was filed, it is made public automatically.

The number of false positives are remarkably low, meaning that almost every time the system emails me, it spotted a genuine problem.

Fuzzing per commit

In 2020, the OSS-Fuzz team introduced CIFuzz, which allows us to run a little bit of fuzzing – for a limited time – on a PR as part of the CI pipeline. Using this, we catch the most obvious mistakes even before we merge the code into our master branch!

After the first few years of us fixing bad code paths, and with the introduction of CIFuzz, we nowadays rarely get reports from OSS-Fuzz anymore. And when we do, we have it complain on code that hasn’t been released yet. The number of CVEs detected in curl by OSS-Fuzz has therefore seemingly stopped at 6.

Taking fuzzing further

After five years of fuzzing, we would benefit from extending and improving the “hooks” where and how the fuzzing is made so that we can help it find and reach code paths with junk that it so far hasn’t reached. There are of course still potentially many undetected flaws in curl remaining because of the limited set of entry point we have for the fuzzer.

I hope OSS-Fuzz continues and lives on for a long time. It certainly helps curl a lot!

Thanks!

Oops, I spilled the beans

Saturday June 18: I had some curl time in the afternoon and I was just about to go edit the four security advisories I had pending for the next release, to brush up the language and check that they read fine, when it dawned on me.

These particular security advisories were still in draft versions but maybe 90% done. There were details, like dates and links to current in-progress patches, left to update. I also like to reread them a few times, especially in a webpage rendered format, to make sure they are clear and accurate in describing the problem, the solution and all other details, before I consider them ready for publication.

I checked out my local git branch where I expected the advisories to reside. I always work on pending security details in a local branch named security-next-release or something like that. The branch and its commits remain private and undisclosed until everything is ready for publication.

(I primarily use git command lines in terminal windows.)

The latest commits in my git log output did not show the advisories so I did a rebase but git promptly told me there was nothing to rebase! Hm, did I use another branch this time?

It took me a few seconds to realize my mistake. I saw four commits in the git master branch containing my draft advisories and then it hit me: I had accidentally pushed them to origin master and they were publicly accessible!

The secrets I was meant to guard until the release, I had already mostly revealed to the world – for everyone who was looking.

How

In retrospect I can’t remember exactly how the mistake was done, but I clearly committed the CVE documents in the wrong branch when I last worked on them, a little over a week ago. The commit date say June 9.

On June 14, I got a bug report about a problem with curl’s .well-known/security.txt file (RFC 9116) where it was mentioned that our file didn’t have an Expires: keyword in spite of it being required in the spec. So I fixed that oversight and pushed the update to the website.

When doing that push, I did not properly verify exactly what other changes that would be pushed in the same operation, so when I pressed enter there, my security advisories that had accidentally been committed in the wrong branch five days earlier and still were present there were also pushed to the remote origin. Swooosh.

Impact

The advisories are created in markdown format, and anyone who would update their curl-www repository after June 14 would then get them into their local repository. Admittedly, there probably are not terribly many people who do that regularly. Anyone could also browse them through the web interface on github. Also probably not something a lot of people do.

These pending advisories would however not appear on the curl website since the build files were not updated to generate the HTML versions. If you could guess the right URL, you could still get the markdown version to show on the site.

Nobody reported this mistake in the four days they were visible before I realized my own mistake (and nobody has reported it since either). I then tried googling the CVE numbers but no search seemed to find and link to the commits. The CVE numbers were registered already so you would mostly get MITRE and other vulnerability database listings that were still entirely without details.

Decision

After some quick deliberations with my curl security team friends, we decided expediting the release was the most sensible thing to do. To reduce the risk that someone takes advantage of this and if they do, we limit the time window before the problems and their fixes become known. For curl users security’s sake.

Previously, the planned release date was set to July 1st – thirteen days away. It had already been adjusted somewhat to not occur on its originally intended release Wednesday to cater for my personal summer plans.

To do a proper release with several security advisories I want at least a few days margin for the distros mailing list to prepare before we go public with everything. There was also the Swedish national midsummer holiday coming up next weekend and I did not feel like ruining my family’s plans and setup for that, so I picked the first weekday after midsummer: June 27th.

While that is just four days earlier than what we had previously planned, I figure those four days might be important and if we imagine that someone finds a way to exploit one of these problems before then, then at least we shorten the attack time window by four days.

curl 7.84.0 was released on June 27th. The four security advisories I had mostly leaked already were published in association with that: CVE-2022-32205, CVE-2022-32206, CVE-2022-32207 and CVE-2022-32208.

Lessons

  1. When working with my security advisories, I must pay more attention and be more careful with which branch I commit to.
  2. When pushing commits to the website and I know I have pending security sensitive details locally that have not been revealed yet, I should make it a habit to double-check that what I am about to push is only and nothing but what I expect to be there.

Simultaneously, I have worked using this process for many years now and this is the first time I did this mistake. I do not think we need to be alarmist about it.

Credits

The Swedish midsummer pole image by Patrik Linden from Pixabay. Facepalm photo by Alex E. Proimos.

curl 7.84.0 inside every box

Welcome to take the next step with us in this never-ending stroll.

Release presentation

Numbers

the 209th release
8 changes
47 days (total: 8,865)

123 bug-fixes (total: 7,980)
214 commits (total: 28,787)
0 new public libcurl function (total: 88)
2 new curl_easy_setopt() option (total: 297)

1 new curl command line option (total: 248)
51 contributors, 20 new (total: 2,652)
35 authors, 13 new (total: 1,043)
4 security fixes (total: 125)
Bug Bounties total: 34,660 USD

Security

This is another release in which scrutinizing eyes have been poking around and found questionable code paths that could be lead to insecurities. We announce four new security advisories this time – all found and reported by Harry Sintonen. This bumps mr Sintonen’s curl CVE counter up to 17; the number of security problems in curl found and reported by him alone.

CVE-2022-32205: Set-Cookie denial of service

A malicious server can serve excessive amounts of Set-Cookie: headers in a HTTP response to curl and curl stores all of them. A sufficiently large amount of (big) cookies make subsequent HTTP requests to this, or other servers to which the cookies match, create requests that become larger than the threshold that curl uses internally to avoid sending crazy large requests (1048576 bytes) and instead returns an error.

CVE-2022-32206: HTTP compression denial of service

curl supports “chained” HTTP compression algorithms, meaning that a server response can be compressed multiple times and potentially with different algorithms. The number of acceptable “links” in this “decompression chain” was unbounded, allowing a malicious server to insert a virtually unlimited number of compression steps.

CVE-2022-32207: Unpreserved file permissions

When curl saves cookies, alt-svc and hsts data to local files, it makes the operation atomic by finalizing the operation with a rename from a temporary name to the final target file name.

In that rename operation, it might accidentally widen the permissions for the target file, leaving the updated file accessible to more users than intended.

CVE-2022-32208: FTP-KRB bad message verification

When curl does FTP transfers secured by krb5, it handles message verification failures wrongly. This flaw makes it possible for a Man-In-The-Middle attack to go unnoticed and even allows it to inject data to the client.

Changes

We have no less than eight different changes logged this time. Two are command line changes and the rest are library side.

--rate

This new command line option rate limits the number of transfers per time period.

deprecate --random-file and --egd-file

These are two options that have not been used by anyone for an extended period of time, and starting now they have no functionality left. Using them has no effect.

curl_global_init() is threadsafe

Finally, and this should be conditioned to say that the function is only thread-safe on most platforms.

curl_version_info: adds CURL_VERSION_THREADSAFE

The point here is that you can check if global init is thread-safe in your particular libcurl build.

CURLINFO_CAPATH/CAINFO: get default CA paths

As the default values for these values are typically figured out and set at build time, applications might appreciate being able to figure out what they are set to by default.

CURLOPT_SSH_HOSTKEYFUNCTION

For libssh2 enabled builds, you can now set a callback for hostkey verification.

deprecate RANDOM_FILE and EGDSOCKET

The libcurl version of the change mentioned above for the command line. The CURLOPT_RANDOM_FILE and CURLOPT_EGDSOCKET options no longer do anything. They most probably have not been used by any application for a long time.

unix sockets to socks proxy

You can now tell (lib)curl to connect to a SOCKS proxy using unix domain sockets instead of traditional TCP.

Bugfixes

We merged way over a hundred bugfixes in this release. Below are descriptions of some of the fixes I think are particularly interesting to highlight and know about.

improved cmake support for libpsl and libidn2

more powers to the cmake build

address cookie secure domain overlay

Addressed issues when identically named cookies marked secure are loaded over HTTPS and then again over HTTP and vice versa. Cookies are complicated.

make repository REUSE compliant

Being REUSE compliant makes we now have even better order and control of the copyright and licenses used in the project.

headers API no longer EXPERIMENTAL

The header API is now officially a full member of the family.

reject overly many HTTP/2 push-promise headers

curl would accept an unlimited number of headers in a HTTP/2 push promise request, which would eventually lead to out of memory – starting now it will instead reject and cancel such ridiculous streams earlier.

restore HTTP header folding behavior

curl broke the previous HTTP header behavior in the 7.83.1 release, and it has now been restored again. As a bonus, the headers API supports folded headers as well. Folding headers being the ones that are the rare (and deprecated) continuation headers that start with a whitespace.

skip fake-close when libssh does the right thing

Previously, libssh would, a little over-ambitiously, close our socket for us but that has been fixed and curl is adjusted accordingly.

check %USERPROFILE% for .netrc on Windows

A few other tools apparently look for and use .netrc if found in the %USERPROFILE% directory, so by making curl also check there, we get better cross tool .netrc behavior.

support quoted strings in .netrc

curl now supports quoted strings in .netrc files so that you can provide spaces and more in an easier way.

many changes in ngtcp2

There were lots of big and small changes in the HTTP/3 backend powered by ngtcp2.

provide a fixed fake host name in NTLM

curl no longer tries to provide the actual local host name when doing NTLM authentication to reduce information leakage. Instead, curl now uses the same fixed fake host name that Firefox uses when speaking NTLM: WORKSTATION.

return error from “lethal” poll/select errors

A persistent error in select() or poll() could previously be ignored by libcurl and not result in an error code returned to the user, making it loop more than necessary.

strcase optimizations

The case insensitive string comparisons were optimized.

maintain path-as-is after redirects

After a redirect or if doing multi-stage authentication, the --path-as-is status would be dropped.

support CURLU_URLENCODE for curl_url_get

This is useful when for example you ask the API to accept spaces in URLs and you want to later extract a valid URL with such an embedded space URL encoded

Coming next

7.85.0 is scheduled to ship on August 31, 2022.

curl is REUSE compliant

The REUSE project is an effort to make Open Source projects provide copyright and license information (for all files) in a machine readable way.

When a project is fully REUSE compliant, you can easily figure out the copyright and license situation for every single file it holds.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to make sure that all files have the correct header with the appropriate copyright info and SPDX-License-Identifier specified, but it also has ways to provide that meta data in adjacent files – for files where prepending that info isn’t sensible.

What we needed to do

We were already in a fairly good place before this push. We have a script that verifies the presence of copyright header in files (including checking the end year vs the latest git commit), with a list of files that were deliberately skipped.

The biggest things we needed to do were

  1. Add the SPDX identifier all over
  2. Make sure that the skipped files also have copyright and licensing info provided
  3. Add a CI job that verifies that we remain compliant

I also ended up adjusting our own copyright scan script to use the REUSE metadata files instead of its own ignore filters which also made it even easier for us to make sure we are and remain compatible — that every single files in the curl git repository has a known and documented license and copyright situation.

As a bonus, the cleanup work helped us detect an example file that stood out which we got relicensed and we removed two older files that had their own unique licenses (without any good reason).

There are 3518 files in the curl git repository this exact moment.

Compliant!

Starting mid-June 2022, curl is 100% REUSE compliant. curl 7.84.0 will be the first release done in this status.

Motivation

I think it is a good idea to have perfect control over the copyright and license situation for every single file, and to make sure that the situation is documented enough and to a level that allows anyone and everyone to check it out and learn how things lie. No surprises.

Companies have obviously figured out this info before to a degree that they have been satisfied with since curl is widely used even commercial since a long time. But I believe that by providing the information in an even easier and more descriptive way makes things even better. For existing and future users.

I also think that the low threshold for us to reach this compliance was a factor. We were almost there already. We just need to polish up some small details and I think it made it worth it.

This cleanup also makes sure we have perfect control and knowledge of the license situation, now and going forward. I think this can be expected from a project aiming for gold standard.

The curl SPDX license identifier

Keen readers will notice that curl has its own license identifier. It is called the curl license. Not MIT, X or a BSD variation. curl.

The reason for this is good old stupidity. In January 2001 we adopted the MIT license for use in the project because we believed it better matches what we want compared to the previous license situation. We started out with a dual license situation together with the MPL license we used previously, but the MPL part was removed completely in October 2002.

For reasons that have since been forgotten, we thought it was a good idea to edit the license text. To trim it a little. Since August 2002, the license text that started out as an MIT/X license is no longer a perfect copy. It is a derivative . Very similar and almost identical. But it’s not the same.

When the SPDX project created their set of identifiers for well-used licenses out in the FOSS world they decided that the curl license is different enough from the MIT/X license to treat it separately and give it its own identifier. I know of no other project than curl that uses this particular edited version of the MIT license.

In hindsight, I believe the editing of the license text back in 2002 was dumb. I regret it, but I will not change it again. I think we can live with this situation pretty good.

Credits

Most of the heavy lifting necessary to make curl compliant was done by Max Mehl.

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