Tesla Copyfree Open Innovation License

The Tesla Copyfree Open Innovation License, henceforth also referred to as the COIL, was developed to fill the need for a copyfree license that does not limit itself in its intended application to software or any other particular content form and comes with a patent license grant. It is intended to be understandable to the layman while still providing adequate legal protection and clarity for the terms of the license. It replaces the TESLA, which was deprecated because of a namespace clash with another license using the same acronym.

The Tesla COIL was named in tribute to Nikola Tesla, a brilliant Serbian engineer and inventor who emigrated to the United States in the nineteenth century and contributed significantly to the state of the technological art until his death in the mid-twentieth century. Among his many inventions was the Tesla coil, essentially a lightning machine -- though it has many uses beyond producing impressive electrical displays (including playing music). His life was at times terribly tragic, far worse than deserved for what he gave the world. Among other reasons to admire the man, he encouraged the efforts of other innovators to the extent that he generally gave free rein for them to make use of the concepts addressed in his numerous patents. When Marconi, inventor of radio communication systems, did his work on the basis of previous work by Tesla, Nikola Tesla merely encouraged his efforts:

Marconi is a good fellow. Let him continue. He is using seventeen of my patents.

If you would prefer a simpler license without a patent clause, have a look at the OWL.

In Brief:

This license is intended to roughly mimic the "public domain" (a legal concept particular to certain jurisdictions) while ensuring that no restrictive copyright claims on the covered work are enforced and providing a patent license grant for patents held by contributors that might otherwise be infringed by the covered work.

In general, you may redistribute, modify, copy, use, fold, spindle, and mutilate any work covered by the COIL as desired, provided you include the text of the COIL with it, granting any recipients of the work (or a derivative work) the same rights and privileges.


As with any copyfree license, the COIL is designed so that it should be effectively self-enforcing in the general case. This is because it serves more properly as a defense of the possessor against restrictive copyright enforcement than an assertion of legal rights for the copyright holder. Even if, in violation of the license terms, a distributor fails to provide notice of the COIL's terms, the fact that the material was initially distributed under these terms should allow use of the COIL as defense against spurious claims of copyright infringement by license violating distributors.

In cases of plagiarism, which should also apply to cases of redistribution of the work (modified or unmodified) without notice of the COIL's terms, the appropriate jurisdiction's legal provisions for addressing such misrepresentation should be sufficient to settle disputes over licensing, even if effective enforcement of open source license terms is impractical due to the difficulty of proving material damage in civil proceedings.

The above is not intended as legal advice. It merely serves to explain the intent of the design of the COIL with regard to enforcement options.


The COIL is designed to serve as a means of encouraging the distribution and use of the covered material -- even within larger projects that are distributed under the terms of other licenses. Weak heritability copyfree licenses such as the COIL are suitable for works whose widespread adoption and use are desirable, such as in cases where the concept or work is more important to be shared widely than the license terms themselves, or when it is believed that strong license terms heritability may hinder the adoption or distribution of the work significantly by virtue of the "viral" nature of licenses with strong heritability characteristics.

Its use is also encouraged for those who do not much care what happens to their works once released, who wish such intent to be made clear for any form of copyrightable content in any jurisdiction, and wish to distribute with a patent license grant.


The Open Works License, or OWL, should provide copyright licensing protections equivalent to the COIL, but the continued popularity of bureaucratically encumbered "permissive" licenses such as the Apache License 2.0 due largely to the inclusion of a patent license grant prompted the development of a simple, copyfree license with strong patent license grant conditions. The result is the COIL.