[Discuss] Publish OSHW with CC0?

Michael Weinberg mweinberg at publicknowledge.org
Wed Nov 5 14:22:15 UTC 2014

I'd advocate against creating new IP laws around open source hardware. A
lot of the copyleft stuff was developed to deal with the problem that
copyrightable things (like programs) are automatically protected by
copyright as soon as they are created. Therefore they need to be licensed
in order for anyone else to make use of them.  Most hardware is in the
opposite position - it is in the public domain by default unless someone
goes out of their way to protect it.  While there is work/thinking to be
done about ways to import virality into open source hardware, it would be a
shame (to me) if a legacy of open source hardware was to expand IP laws.
This is doubly true if you assume that any attempt to expand IP law for
"good" open source reasons would end up creating "bad" restrictions used by
other actors as well.

On Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 8:30 AM, Roy Nielsen <amrset at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hello,
> Maybe it's time for a group of people to go to lawmakers to create
> copyleft law(s) that balance out the closed nature of patent law.  Or work
> on changing patent law to have copyleft provisions.
> Do you think companies will give more respect to copyleft patent law
> rather than copyleft design documents?
> Regards,
> -Roy
> On Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 5:31 AM, Javier Serrano <Javier.Serrano at cern.ch>
> wrote:
>> On 11/05/2014 01:05 PM, Wouter Tebbens wrote:
>> > But replicating copyleft in hardware is clearly much harder as Alicia
>> > says. Copyright based licenses may apply to documentation, design files
>> > etc, but do not prevent people to reuse that information in
>> > non-free/-open hardware, as the hardware itself is not protected.
>> This is exactly the same in free software. I can take ideas from the
>> source code of emacs and write my own proprietary editor. Because the
>> task for writing an editor from scratch is not trivial, I will think
>> twice and probably decide to contribute whatever new feature I want to
>> emacs itself. The power of copyleft grows with the complexity of the
>> sources it protects, and is nearly zero for trivial work. The same
>> happens with hardware. While hardware is definitely different from
>> software, I think there is a large family of hardware (that manufactured
>> from copyrightable design files) where this difference is not so big.
>> There is (at least) one respect in which the non-copyrightability of
>> hardware leads to an undesirable outcome, and that is our inability to
>> fully guarantee that, under all circumstances, should the original
>> designer wish so, recipients of open hardware always get access to the
>> design files. Copyleft does that for software: if you get the binary you
>> can always have access to the sources. We did our best in CERN OHL v1.2
>> using the concept of "Documentation Location Notice", inspired by Eli
>> Greenbaum's paper on 3D-printing [1], but I am very interested in any
>> other ways of tackling this important problem, hopefully not involving
>> patents.
>> Thanks,
>> Javier
>> [1]
>> http://jipel.law.nyu.edu/2013/04/three-dimensional-printing-and-open-source-hardware/
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Michael Weinberg, Vice President, PK Thinks
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