[Discuss] quick blog post on possible misconceptions re: Certification proposal

abram connelly abram.connelly at gmail.com
Thu Oct 1 04:39:30 UTC 2015

> So, in your mind, what are the core issues that certification is trying to
> solve?

In my mind, certification is trying to give a guarantee that hardware with
an open source hardware certification has its design files, along with
supporting material, is available under a free license, as described in

> Personally, I think we should have clarity on what OSHW should be, but I'm
> against fines. I'm also against co-opting terms that describe the broad
> community to refer to what is, by definition, a subset of the community.
> The general point of open source hardware is to just share your work with
> others, so anyone who does that is part of the community. The more effort
> they put into it, and the more they give away, the better. It's silly that
> most of the "open source" software on Github doesn't actually have a
> license, and is therefore not open source at all, but it doesn't mean the
> people who intend for their work to be shared are not part of the open
> source software community in spirit. Same for hardware.
In terms of code on GitHub, without a license it is not free for use
without explicit consent from the author.  Source code without a license is
not in the spirit of free and open source as it can't be used without
consent.  The point of the license is to indicate to the public that
consent is given without explicitly asking for it.  Not putting an open
source license on your code precisely means the software is not open
source.  Code is open source by putting an open source license on the
code.  Sharing your code so that others can look at it is not the same as
allowing for its use by others.

If a company uses free and open source software and does not provide that
source to the community they are most certainly subject to legal
ramifications.  Part of the job of the FSF is to make sure that bad actors
don't get away with violating the GPL.  I imagine there would also be legal
ramifications for a company that attaches a GPL license to their product
but that does not release their source code.

The point of open source hardware is not just to share your work with
others but to make sure that work can be used by others.  The enforcement
portion of the certification is to make sure companies who claim to follow
the open source hardware principles actually do so.  I believe the
logistics of how this is enforced are very reasonable, starting with an
attempt at communication and allowing the offending party to correct the
issue without progressive action.

We have to start somewhere with a definition and the principles as laid out
by the open source hardware association seem reasonable to me.  Open source
hardware has its own set of constraints and certification is a step towards
in keeping with the spirit of the ideals of free and open source.  The
certification is an attempt to make sure companies that claim to operate in
the spirit of openness actually do so.

On Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 5:47 PM, abram connelly <abram.connelly at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> This post is really great, thanks for making it.
>> I think a lot of people get turned off when there's standards committees,
>> organizations and other bureaucratic infrastructure mentioned, especially
>> with a hacker friendly type of crowd.  Though there still is a lot of FUD
>> w.r.t. free and open source, it used to be a lot worse.  I think the same
>> type of thing is happening with open hardware (and certification) now and
>> that it can get better in the future.
>> I think explaining in terms of what it is, why it was created and what
>> the implications are goes a long way towards this. At the risk of kicking
>> the hornets nest, I think posts like Boldport's "The license is the
>> license" (
>> http://www.boldport.com/blog/2015/9/22/the-license-is-the-license) are
>> really misguided and confused about what the certification is proposing to
>> solve.  I also think it's important to reach out to the members of the open
>> hardware community that don't typically get a lot of attention and make
>> sure their voices are heard and concerns addressed.  Maybe a FAQ could be
>> written up addressing some of these issues?  One that lists some of the
>> common concerns that have been coming up, in Boldport's post, the HaD
>> comments and elsewhere?  Maybe it could even be put up on a GitHub page so
>> that anyone could suggest additions by making pull requests (there's always
>> a Wiki as an alternative as well)?
>> Hardware is a different beast than software. I think we need to make sure
>> people understand why we have these mechanisms in place for open hardware
>> and why it needs to be different from the software license model.  For me,
>> addressing the core issues of what the certification is trying to solve and
>> the motivation behind it is crucial for understanding.  I think your
>> article is a great and hopefully it's a start of a larger trend of pushing
>> back against a lot of misunderstanding!
>> -Abram
>> On Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 3:21 PM, Jeffrey Warren <jeff at publiclab.org>
>> wrote:
>>> Hi, all -- I dumped some of my thoughts on the certification into a post
>>> on my blog:
>>> http://unterbahn.com/2015/09/misconceptions-about-oshwas-open-source-hardware-certification-v1/
>>> IMO, there's plenty to worry about (or to work hard to do properly)
>>> without having to worry about some of these red herrings. Interested to
>>> hear folks thoughts.
>>> In particular I've been very interested in making it clear that not
>>> certifying does not mean your project is not open source hardware. It
>>> seemed very clear to me, but from comments "out there" I gather that that's
>>> not 100% understood.
>>> +1 clarity!
>>> Jeff
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> discuss mailing list
>>> discuss at lists.oshwa.org
>>> http://lists.oshwa.org/listinfo/discuss
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