[Discuss] curious statement on github about oshwa certiification

Javier Serrano Javier.Serrano at cern.ch
Fri Jul 8 12:08:49 UTC 2016

On 07/08/2016 01:37 PM, Matt Maier wrote:
> ... so "hardware licenses" in open source hardware aren't nearly as
> useful as open source software licenses. 

Of course licensors and licensees should bear in mind that while the end
product in software (the binary) is subject to copyright law, the end
product in hardware (the piece of hardware) isn't in most cases.
However, I can look at the sources of the Linux kernel and write my own
functionally equivalent kernel from scratch using everything I learnt,
without infringing the GPL that protects the sources of the original
kernel, exactly the same process you described for hardware. So the
difference is not so big after all. Nobody rewrites the Linux kernel
because the effort involved is big compared to just complying with the
license. A similar thing could be said for a 32-layer board. The more
the complexity, the more compelling the case for reusing the original
source/design files and just complying with whatever conditions
(license) the copyright owner imposes.

> 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. 

Yes, of course. But hardware licenses (whose naming could be misleading
as you suggest, they should probably be called licenses for hardware
designs) contain wording that takes into account the fact that the
protected documents will ultimately be used to produce hardware. For
example, the CERN OHL says: "The Licence includes a non-exclusive
licence to those patents or registered designs that are held by, under
the control of, or sub-licensable by the Licensor, to the extent
necessary to make use of the rights granted under this Licence." This
means that when I license a design under the CERN OHL, you, as the
licensee, can be sure I will never sue you for patent infringement if
you e.g. manufacture and sell hardware based on the design files. You
don't get that reassurance when you use a Creative Commons license. This
can be more or less important for a particular licensor/licensee of
course. Ultimately it is a matter of getting to know all license options
and picking the one that best represents your intentions. Because
licensing is such a central concept in open source, it should, to some
reasonable extent, be part of the general culture of its practitioners.



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