Toward an Open Weights Definition

Today, OSS Capital is starting a project to collect community input on a definition of Open Weights. We have published our initial effort at

Here is the TLDR:

It is critical for the industry to develop and standardize on “Open Weights” licensing frameworks. These frameworks should align closely with the Four Freedoms of free software but should be specifically tailored for Neural Net Weights (NNWs). Recently, my partner and the founder of OSS Capital, Joseph Jacks, posted about this issue, and there was significant interest.

We need a standard for Open Weights that recognizes the unique nature of NNWs and provides legal and practical guidelines for their use, distribution and sharing. This requires collaboration from the entire AI community, including developers, researchers, legal experts, and regulatory bodies.

Also, we do not believe that a definition of Open Weights needs to import subjects such as privacy, human rights, or clearance of data inputs into its licensing principles at this time. We know those are important topics, but they will take time to figure out. We are focused instead on the original idea of openness, and preserving the original goals of Freedom Zero of free software and the non-discrimination principles of open source. We encourage others to develop their own standards for restrictions and ethical licensing, and to participate in the legislative process to set the standards of society for limiting activity to proper use of AI, the information used to train it, and the information it produces.

Also, we applaud those communities who are working on their own definitions. At OSS Capital, we have committed to sponsor the Open Source Initiative’s efforts in this regard, and we hope our efforts will dovetail. But we believe time is of the essence, so we hope our effort will jumpstart collaboration.

We believe that this definition should be developed in the open, much like open source software itself. Therefore this definition and license will be published on GitHub and the community is invited to improve it.

As OSI, we are less concerned with the exact substance of the definition than making sure there is a definition everyone can trust.

Here are some things we considered when creating our draft definition.

  • Time is of the essence. We need a definition soon; developers and users alike are struggling because they don’t have one, and they need one, so they can make proper choices about which models to use.
  • Keep it simple. We are leaving questions like privacy and ethics to other initiatives. Those are important, but much more complicated, and will take time to work out. We are also not tackling the issue of clearing rights in training data.
  • Define both the licensed material and the license. We need to know not only license terms for licensees, but what needs to be disclosed by the licensor to make the licensed material open. This is, we think, the most difficult challenge for creating this definition.
  • Get community input. We welcome everyone to comment and make suggestions on GitHub. We hope to help the discussion but not control it.

If you’d like to contribute or open issues, please see our GitHub.

If you’d like to follow the project, you can watch the repository — instructions on how to watch a repo on GitHub.

You can engage in discussion here:

Author: heatherjmeeker

Technology licensing lawyer, drummer, dancer

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