[Discuss] OSHW Best Practices / Layers of Openness

David A. Mellis dam at mellis.org
Wed Feb 27 16:54:59 UTC 2013

Here's my take on these. What do the rest of you think?

On Tue, Feb 26, 2013 at 12:51 PM, alicia <amgibb at gmail.com> wrote:

> - I plan to release the files in 3/6/12 months, can still use the open
> source hw logo?

No. Or, at least, not until the files are released. Until then, it's not
actually open-source.

- Can I use the oshw logo if my project is only partially open source?

This one is tricky and I think it depends on which parts are open and where
and how the logo is used. For example, I think it would be fine to put the
logo on an open-source circuit board that's inside a proprietary enclosure
but the reverse might be misleading. To put the logo on a product's
packaging, I think the primary component(s) of the product should be
open-source but it's not necessarily clear what those are. Similarly for
using the logo on the product's website. In these kinds of cases, it's
important to be specific and clearly indicate which parts are open-source
and which parts aren't.

I think it's also interesting to look at how open-source software handles
this question. In large part, the strategy seems to be specificity about
what constitutes a project (i.e. giving open-source components their own
name and identity) rather than clear conventions about how to handle
partially-open bundles of software (cf. the ongoing debate about the
appropriateness of including proprietary software or binary blobs in Linux

> - How do I or will OSHWA approach a company who has the open source hw
> logo on their boards but no files?

This seems like something OSHWA should do, although I'm not sure what the
best approach would be.

> - Must supplier details be given to use the oshw logo?

In general, I would say no, particularly if you're using standard parts
(e.g. 6 mm plywood or a SOT23 transistor). I don't think, however, that you
can use supplier anonymity as an excuse for not specifying the parts used:
e.g. when the supplier is a defining feature of the part (e.g. an "Atmel
AVR ATmega328" vs. "8-bit microcontroller").

> - Can I use the oshw logo on my product if I am using
> a proprietary enclosure from another company, but the insides are mine?

Again, I think this one is tricky. If the enclosure is a simple generic
project box and the primary component of the product is your custom,
open-source circuit board, I think using the logo would be okay (although
you should specify that the enclosure is proprietary). The more complex the
enclosure and the simpler the insides, however, the less appropriate the
use of the logo seems.

> - This movement feels like you're leaving out mechanical designs /
> architecture / nanotech, how can I interpret your definition to include my
> projects? (This comes to us a lot, which perhaps prompted Catarina to start
> exploring a space that would better include them.)

As long as there's a source file (that can be used to produce the object)
and you share it in an appropriate way (e.g. in the preferred format for
making modifications and allowing commercial re-use), I don't think there
should be a problem. While there may be some clauses in the definition that
sound specific to electronic circuits, I think this is more of an issue of
communication and culture than the definition itself, but certainly one we
should be addressing.

> - Can I release some of the software for a license, like a pro version, or
> does that go against Free Redistribution, or is it okay because of clause
> 12 in the definition?

As long as you satisfy clauses 1 (releasing the design files) and 3
(necessary software), it's probably okay (although not ideal) to also
charge for a better version of the software / firmware, as long as people
don't need it to use the product's essential functions. Clause 12 means
that you can't release your design under a license that requires people to
use a particular technology (e.g. a specific family of microcontrollers) in
their derivatives. That's a separate issue from the information you need to
release in making the design open-source.

> - What are the best practices for releasing a piece of open source
> hardware and its documentation under the definition?

Good question. It's great that we're having a discussion about these and we
should definitely document them.

> - Can I directly copy open source hardware (sans trademark), the oshw
> definition says 'yes', but articles on oshw have a resounding 'no'.

It's allowed but obnoxious unless there's a good reason for it. (For
example, large import duties in your country might be a good reason for
making a local version.)

> - Is a different economic model (selling hw for cheaper or more expensive)
> enough to call copied hardware a derivative?

This sounds like a restatement of the previous question, since the
difference between a "derivative" and a "clone" seems to be mostly one of
perspective and attitude. Again, it seems that most people are annoyed to
someone who simply copies hardware without a good reason but it's not clear
if a different economic model counts.
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