[Discuss] Publish OSHW with CC0?
Andrew.Katz at moorcrofts.com
Wed Nov 5 14:58:57 UTC 2014
REPOST WITH BETTER FORMATTING!
> On 5 Nov 2014, at 13:30, Roy Nielsen
> <amrset at gmail.com<mailto:amrset at gmail.com>> wrote:
> 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.
We’ve thought about this extensively, and the big problem is that any
mechanism (such as a much-easier-to-obtain patent) which facilitates
hardware copyleft, also has the extremely undesirable consequence of making
proprietary companies more easily able to lock a huge amount of hardware
designs away from the commons. That will immediately increase barriers to
entry for all participants enormously. It’s difficult to see what the overall
benefit would be.
Copyleft in hardware (especially the designs) is a nice-to-have, but it’s not
worth creating much worse problems in an effort to solve it.
I’d also disagree slightly, (and unusually!) with Javier:
> On Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 5:31 AM, Javier Serrano
> <Javier.Serrano at cern.ch<mailto: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
> 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.
This is a subtle but important point. The FSF has been clear that nothing in the
GPL compels anyone to release their sources. Of course, if you fail to do so in
accordance with the GPL, you are in breach of the underlying copyright and
therefore potentially have a copyright infringement claim against you (as well
as losing your rights under the GPL for that code in the first place), so the
consequences are pretty severe, but you do not HAVE to give up your source
code, even though there is a very large incentive to do so. This is apparently
(according to Eben Moglen, IIRC) by design, one point being that any other
outcome means that a violator can have potential claims from all recipients,
rather than just the copyright holder(s). Maybe there’s an argument to say that
this should be different in the world of hardware (given that hardware licences
have much less opportunity to impinge than copyright licences, so their power
should be multiplied by increasing the number of potential claimants, rather
than the number of potential bite-points - to be honest I’ve only just thought of
this). Note that this argument only holds where the GPL is properly construed as
a bare licence. It’s on much shakier ground in civil law jurisdictions, for
> 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 , but I am very interested in any other
> ways of tackling this important problem, hopefully not involving patents.
Yes indeed, Javier.
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