Machine Learning

Meta AI: Llama 2 – Open Source that’s not Open Source

Open source software is any program where the developer releases the source code for free. Whenever software has an open source license, it means anyone in the world can download, modify and distribute it without paying fees to its original creator. To meet the criteria of open source, the source code must be shared with others using a license compatible with the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

There are over 80 variations of open source licenses, but they generally fall into one of two primary categories: copyleft and permissive:

Copyleft license is a license type in which code derived from the original open source code inherits its license terms. Permissive license is a license type that provides more freedom for reuse, modification, and distribution.

Whether the license is copyleft or permissive, an open source project cannot specify conditions about what the software can or cannot be used for, unless a law overrides the license. Open source by its nature, encourages collaboration, transparency and trust.

Artificial intelligence icon Llama 2 is a second-generation large language model (LLM), trained on huge dollops of data to generate coherent and natural-sounding outputs . It can be used to build chatbots like ChatGPT. Here at, we’ve written many reviews of LLM chatbots. Read our reviews. It’s a fascinating and quickly evolving research area. writes extensively on interesting open source software and calls out abusive behaviour by large multinational companies.

Meta AI proclaims that Llama 2 is their next generation open source large language model. It’s licensed under the Llama 2 Community License Agreement. OSI publishes a list of licenses which they have approved. The Llama 2 Community License Agreement is not one of them, and would never be approved as it stands.

We’ll highlight a couple of sections of the license agreement that makes it blatantly obvious that Llama 2 is not open source.

v. You will not use the Llama Materials or any output or results of the Llama Materials to improve any other large language model (excluding Llama 2 or derivative works thereof).

2. Additional Commercial Terms. If, on the Llama 2 version release date, the monthly active users of the products or services made available by or for Licensee, or Licensee’s affiliates, is greater than 700 million monthly active users in the preceding calendar month, you must request a license from Meta, which Meta may grant to you in its sole discretion, and you are not authorized to exercise any of the rights under this Agreement unless or until Meta otherwise expressly grants you such rights.

No open source license will dictate these sorts of conditions.

Meta calling Llama 2 “open source” does not make it so. In fact, it’s egregious behaviour and blatant abuse. Let’s not mince words here. We must stamp out this sort of abuse.

Meta is not the first company to act inappropriately regarding the phrase “open source”, nor will it be the last. But that doesn’t make it right.

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