[Discuss] lawyers confirm that lawyering open source hardware is hard

Javier Serrano Javier.Serrano at cern.ch
Thu May 22 07:18:29 UTC 2014

On 05/20/2014 02:53 PM, Matt Maier wrote:
> One of the things that seems to best define "open source hardware" is
> that its name is taken from a parallel motivation to open source
> software, rather than from an actual licensing framework.
> Using copyright to control what happens with software is relatively
> straight forward once people agree on standardized clauses. There is
> nothing in the legal world that does the same thing for hardware. 
> We've been saying that in the open source hardware community for a while
> (probably forever) but now it's been confirmed by real, live lawyers.

There is no shortage of very competent lawyers who have already given
their opinions about OSHW: John Ackermann, Myriam Ayass, Eli Greenbaum,
Andrew Katz, Carlo Piana and Michael Weinberg to name a few. I think the
good news here is that open source lawyers in general are starting to
make a place for discussing OSHW in their meetings.

> http://opensource.com/law/14/5/legal-issues-open-data-open-hardware
> /"Drafting and using open licenses for data and hardware presents both
> familiar old challenges (like license proliferation) and new challenges
> (like less developed legal frameworks and different production models).
> About thirty people working in these areas recently gathered (under the
> umbrella of the FSF-E's "European Legal Network"
> <http://fsfe.org/activities/ftf/network.en.html>) to discuss the latest
> work in these areas under the Chatham House Rules
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chatham_House_Rule>"/

I was in that meeting with Luis and gave a couple of short talks [1,2].
I argued in particular for the need to come up with a better licensing
regime for HDL code, which is kind of half-way between software and
hardware. Since people are mostly using GPL and LGPL for those designs,
I think a separate explanatory document from the FSF on how to interpret
those licenses in an HDL setting would be useful.

> /" In hardware, one of my key takeaways from the event is that there are
> so many different things going on—different technologies, different
> motivations for creation—on that these instincts to simplify and unify
> may lead us astray. We don't want to try to fit round mechanical pegs
> into square chip design holes, for example"/

I agree with Luis. The field is still in its infancy. There is only so
much one can learn from software.



[1] http://serrano.web.cern.ch/serrano/cern_ohl_talk.pdf
[2] http://serrano.web.cern.ch/serrano/hdl_licensing.pdf

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