[Discuss] curious statement on github about oshwa certiification

Matt Maier blueback09 at gmail.com
Fri Jul 8 11:37:08 UTC 2016

It would probably help to differentiate between licensing the hardware and
licensing the documentation on how to build the hardware. The ideas and
physical implementation can be protected by patent, maybe. The creative
writing and drawing describing the stuff that will become physical are
automatically protected by copyright.

I'm not a lawyer, but generally speaking...
... if you make a CAD file for a hydraulic press, the CAD file is "all
copyright rights reserved" by default.
... if you build the hydraulic press, the physical object has no
protection, but the ideas embodied in its structure could be patented,
... If someone else sees your hydraulic press, and sketches out how it
works, they get full copyright protection for their own sketch
... if they end up making their own CAD file, it also gets copyright
protection, even if it happens to be identical
... if you try to apply a license to the hydraulic press itself, either the
physical object or the ideas embodied in it, you don't get any protection.
You can call it a license but it's really more of a statement of
preference. If you patent it you can license the patent.
... so "hardware licenses" in open source hardware aren't nearly as useful
as open source software licenses.

The certification is yet another totally different thing. That's an
agreement you optionally enter into between yourself and OSHWA. In return
for you obeying the rules laid down by OSHWA you get OSHWA's support if
anyone accuses you of not actually being open.

So if you build a purely functional device from scratch it has no
protection. If you write down what you did your writing automatically has
full copyright protection. You can license the writing to allow other
people to use it, which they can't do by default, because by default you
retain all rights. If you want to protect the functional device itself you
can apply for a patent. If you want to release the project as open source
hardware you can use an OSHW license, or any open source license, or
creative commons, whatever. If you want to build a business on/around your
and other's OSHW projects, and you want everyone's lawyers to be
comfortable signing off on the deal(s), you can opt-in to OSHWA's

The OSHWA certification is a way to provide clarity in the wild west of
open source hardware. Since there aren't the same strong, clear legal
protections in open hardware as in open software, the OSHWA certification
provides a consistent third-party standard. With the certification we might
start to see large organizations with liability concerns participating in
open source hardware. Individuals can continue to do whatever they want,
but it helps to clearly understand the legal distinctions.

On Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 10:51 AM, Javier Serrano <Javier.Serrano at cern.ch>

> On 07/07/2016 11:49 PM, Nancy Ouyang wrote:
> >   * *which license do you want?*
> >       o oshwa: copyleft
> There is no oshwa license I am aware of. If you want persistence in an
> open hardware license, the two options I know of are TAPR OHL and CERN OHL.
> In my opinion, the most important message about licensing we should
> convey is this: a license *is* what allows the design to be shared in
> the way we want. The default for copyright in many jurisdictions is "all
> rights reserved", i.e. if I find a design on the web, in principle I
> don't have the right to copy it, modify it and redistribute it. A
> license is the tool we use to grant those permissions.
> Cheers,
> Javier
> _______________________________________________
> discuss mailing list
> discuss at lists.oshwa.org
> http://lists.oshwa.org/listinfo/discuss
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