Will Your CAD Software Company Own Your Files, Too?

We’re used to the relationship between the commercial software companies from whom we’ve bought whichever of the programs we use on our computers, and ourselves as end users. We pay them money, and they give us a licence to use the software. We then go away and do our work on it, create our Microsoft Word documents or whatever, and those are our work, to do whatever we want with.

There are plenty of arguments against this arrangement from the world of free software, indeed many of us choose to heed them and run open source alternatives to the paid-for packages or operating systems. But for the majority of individuals and organisations the commercial model is how they consume software. Pay for the product, use it for whatever you want.

What might happen were that commercial model to change? For instance, if the output of your commercial software retained some ownership on the part of the developer, so for example maybe a word processor company could legally prevent you opening a document in anything but their word processor or viewer. It sounds rather unreasonable, and maybe even far-fetched, but there is an interesting case in California’s Ninth Circuit court that could make that a possibility.

The software in question is a specialist CAD package for structural steelwork, and concerns a company that had outsourced its CAD work to China. The claim being made is that the ownership lies in “expressive content that is not in the actual design of the component, such as the font or the colors used, the shape of a comment box, or the placement of certain components around the design which appear in the design file, but which are not the design itself“.

Almost all creative software comes pre-loaded with this form of content, whether it is a font, a component in a CAD library, a predefined rounded box for creating a flow chart, or a sound sample. While the court case in question is a minor one in a niche corner of one industry, its potential for a precedent means we should all keep an eye on it. The possibility of this pre-loaded content being used to exert ownership over output files is an extremely worrying one, and while many software companies explicitly grant a licence to use them it’s likely that there would be developers who would be unable to resist the chance to make more cash through this means.

Our community has recently had a nasty surprise on the software licensing front, with EAGLE moving to a subscription model. Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into another one. Meanwhile there’s our series on creating a PCB in KiCAD, should you wish to make the jump to open source.

Via Hacker News.

CAD model of a power station: VGB PowerTech [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

89 thoughts on “Will Your CAD Software Company Own Your Files, Too?

  1. Anyone who thinks this will not happen eventually is being willfully blind. Watch it happen first in entertainment media as the parasitic toll-seekers desperately try to keep sucking value out of the creativity of others

    1. We usually think of these things in terms of software and services, but really, these licenses are contracts.

      We are all responsible for reading and understanding those 53 pages of legal definitions before clicking “I agree”, and we’re absolutely free to not click on the button. We can go find someone else to provide a similar solution under more agreeable terms; or we can go without the service. But if we click “I agree”, that means we really do agree to abide by their terms. If the contract says they own the rights to our work, they own the rights. If the contact says you own “the design”, but they own the rights to the fancy filigreed borders that surround your design, and the fonts that show the dimensions of your design, then that’s exactly what you get. A pretty document that you have to pay them for if you want to publish it.

      Read the contracts for yourself. Don’t wait for your favorite hacking website to report someone is outraged (or worse, screwed over) by the terms of the software you happen to be using. Better, look for the GPL, Apache license, Mozilla Public License, or other license that doesn’t take away your rights.

      1. Well, I don’t know how the law is in the USA, but here in Europe a clause can be considered abusive by a judge. And such clauses, without some kind of benefit for the user, could be clearly be considered abusive. A benefit could be “using the software for free”, for example, or “having a big discount”. But if you pay, and there are no option, that sounds like an abusive clause in my opinion.

        1. Unfortunately, history has shown that the opinions of the ruled don’t hold as much power as those of the rulers, until there is an overwhelming drive for change. Usually after many people are hurt and abused.

          1. Actually thays why in the US we have the Second Amendment. We have no rulers and those think fail to understand their place as civil servants can readily be delt with.

            Now England and those other Monarchies with all that Socialist nanny state nonsense sure they might have Thay issue. For us it’s the issue of to many Americans failing to properly rile ourselves and allowing our rights to be degraded. Obviously no system is perfect especially those that depends on lazy, fat and under educated masses. (Has a very low opinion of my fellow Americans due to the long standing 2 party corruption issue.)
            /End of rant.

      2. In the US, those “contracts” that you “agree to” by opening the box or clicking through to use the software have never been tested in court, and the industries that rely on them have very carefully worked to make sure they haven’t. It is by no means as slam-dunk that they would be upheld, since there is an element of duress (it’s settled law that a contract isn’t valid if you signed it because of a gun pointed at your head) and you often can’t read them until after you’ve opened the package. But a negative precedent could unravel entire business models in an instant.

      3. Most of the people injured by flaming Galaxy Note 7’s have zero recourse against Samsung because of an opt-out indemnity clause buried deep in the back pages of the phone manual, way behind where the user instructions end. if you don’t send notice to Samsung within a certain number of days to tell them where they can shove their indemnity clause, you’re screwed if the phone causes personal injury or property damage through manufacturing defects or any other fault on Samsung’s part.

        What Samsung should do is pay all the medical bills or property repair/replacement costs caused by their extreme lack of quality control and testing that failed to find the defective batteries.

        The next item should be for Congress to pass a law barring such clauses. The manufacturer WILL be liable for injury and property damage caused by inherent product defects for a specified amount of time, unless the purchaser wants to opt-out of the manufacturer paying for its failures, instead of having to opt out of the manufacturer NOT paying for its failures.

        then they could revisit the “shrinkwrap EULA” where opening the package is taken as agreeing 100% with a EULA *before it’s even possible to read it*. Ban that crap too.

    2. It’s even worse when the software is cloud based. Oh look, you irritated the company that makes the software. Now none of your designs work or can even be loaded up.

      What is more troubling is the trend towards renting hardware models too. Needs to be cloud based software AND the hardware is only leased, not owned. Yeah, fuck that nonsense. Looking at you, Carbon 3D.

      1. That is but one reason that I refuse to participate in any manner of “cloud-based” computing. I do not want to run my programs from someone else’s computer. I do not want to store my data on someone else’s computer. I do not want to be dependent on the whim of a company even existing for me to be able to use a program fro which I paid good money. And the same goes for music and videos as well. That is why I refuse to use services like VUDU. What happens when that company goes bust? You lose every bit of “content” that you paid for. Granted, when LaserDisc went tits up, most people felt that they needed to repurchase all of their media on DVD, but still to this day, almost 40 years after LD went bust, I can, and do, still play that media. Try that with VUDU.

        Also… this is but one reason why I only run open-source software.

        1. Glad you mentioned disks, you just gave me a brilliant idea that will allow me to make it big and become the next InstaFace whatever! LPs are having a comeback – I’ll just sell a cloud-based LP player that does actually read the vinyl disc but only to analyze the track played as proof-of-ownership then proceeds to stream the exact same song from my cloud in eleventy-billion bits/sec audiophile-level hyper-quality! Your old scratched vinyls are as good as new all over again* ! Now who wants to offer my some sweet startup cash in unmarked non-sequential bills for my first Hawaii mansion…?

          * please note that the device may play tastefully selected and carefully vetted adverts in the pauses between changing of flipping LPs; also, be advised that the device can only be used attached to a cloud account – registering is free, it only requires fully completing this short, 736-step questionnaire.

      2. If there were less sheep this cloud BS would not be the Headliner business model today… just buy extra storage…
        Streaming my own music is a waste, with the data plan BS now days,… just copy to your phone…
        NEVER depend on the cloud with your stuff (not 100%)… cloud hackers have hacked apple, target, microsoft… and so on…

  2. So if an artificial hip was designed with software from a company that does this, will they own grandpa? I am of course being facetious, but i can definitely see an episode of black mirror about this. Furthermore, why does this crap always come out of california’s 9th district?

      1. A lot of people want to take Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana out of the 9th Circuit and make them a new 12th Circuit. Some want to add Arizona and Nevada to a new 12th, leaving the 9th only California, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

        May as well make NMI, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands all States.

      1. For most of civilized history, your body (and whatever comprises the rest of you) were owned by the King, and this ownership was effected by the Divine Right of Kings. The US Declaration of Independence specifically moves this divine right to us as individuals (“endowed by our maker with certain inalienable rights”), so in essence it is a founding principle of our government that yes, you do own your body, and for the same reason it was once thought that the King owned you, because God gave you your body.

    1. From almost 7 years ago!

      Although the pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators and other IMDs, or implantable medical devices, are heavily regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, the source code for their underlying software is deemed the exclusive property of its manufacturers, the Software Freedom Law Center wrote in the report. As a result, doctors and patients are barred from scrutinizing the code for defects that could result in life-threatening conditions.

      Killed by Code: Software Transparency in Implantable Medical Devices
      http://www.softwarefreedom.org/resources/2010/transparent-medical-devices.html

        1. Especially considering the Therac 25 and other radiation treatment machines from that time which killed people with buggy software.

          One of them used a light pen to draw on a monitor for positioning the shields to constrain the area of the body to be irradiated. IIRC if the operator went around clockwise all was fine but if the operator went around counter-clockwise, the machine would leave all the shields retracted and blast a wide area of the patient’s body at full power.

          That’s why devices and software should always be tested by the sort of people who are intended to operate and use them. People who have zero knowledge about the inner workings and what NOT to do with them.

          “But I’m left handed and it’s so much easier to draw the shield positions counter-clockwise. And what about when another left handed person gets hired to operate this fancy machine, and nobody informs the new guy that doing it counter clockwise will kill the patient?”

          “Oh, so when I get good and fast operating the Therac 25, there’s a high probability it’ll kill the patient if I don’t wait a few seconds before hitting this button? And using the remote trigger in the treatment chamber has a non-random chance of doing the same if I happen to press the trigger at precisely the point its watchdog counter rolls over from 255 to 0?”

          That’s a bit more consequential than telling people they simply shouldn’t grip their iPhone 4 in the most comfortable way, which happens to short out the antenna.

          There’s no excuse for telling people “If you don’t use it like that, it’s fully functional and perfectly safe.” Standing downrange of lawn darts is stupid but making something that fails when used in what to anyone not involved in the making of it uses it in an obvious-to-them way is all on the people who designed it – especially when they *know* it will have problems *and* it can be fixed to not have those problems.

          iPhone 4, obviously the people involved in the antenna design knew that shorting across the gap with human skin would make it fail to operate properly so why did they design it so it would fail in the hands of anyone who doesn’t know and doesn’t care anything about radio antenna design?

          You have to “think ignorant” about your hardware and software. Try to think of what people *might* do that would cause problems. If you make something that needs to move one way in order to work properly, but leave it so it can be moved in a way that makes it NOT work properly – you either have to make sure it works properly when moved both ways, or make it so it can only be moved the one way.

          Hewlett Packard failed that on one series of their DeskJet printers. Who ever turns a printer upside down? Well HP thought the answer was “Nobody!”. On that particular series if they were turned upside down some parts of the paper feed system would fall into positions that required taking the printer apart to put them back. The printer series that replaced those was upside-down proof – and the design alterations were very minor, could have and should have been in the previous product, and no HP Deskjet printer before the problem ones had that issue. Someone went to some extra effort, or perhaps even thought something like “Why does this part have that piece there? The only way that’s ever needed would be if someone turns the printer upside down and nobody would do that. I’ll take that out and over the product life it’ll save a lot of plastic and cost.”

          Be very careful answering “No.” to the question “Is this part really necessary?”

  3. As long as you keep your stuff in formats that are not open (and by “open” I don’t mean “there exists a plugin for a specific version of GIMP that will sometimes open the file and only loose half of the content, written by someone who reverse-engineered it 5 years ago in their basement”), you are practically begging to become a hostage of the company that controls the format. Even if you know the developers personally and trust them completely — things happen, companies get sold, software gets discontinued or “upgraded”, subscription models and “the cloud” appear out of thin air, and so on. So unless you can actually see the code that reads the format (or documentation that is detailed enough to write such code from it), you are screwed. You just didn’t realize that yet.

    1. This. Open formats are more relevant to everyday use by laymen than Open source is. Most people don’t care about the program used, as long as they don’t lose their precious data. This is a huge motivation for the use of Open Source and Open format in the company I’m building.

    2. Have you ever used a software product that either cannot open every format it can save to, or when opening (or re-opening) some format, it opens corrupted or missing stuff?

      There was a version of Word Perfect that could do WYSIWYG HTML. I though that would be useful. I used it on ONE HTML document, saved regularly. Then I quit Word Perfect. The next day I ran WP, opened my file and it was a total mess. It was completely incapable of properly rendering the file it had been used to create. It displayed properly in a browser, until being saved again after being re-opened.

      Remember when VRML was a big deal? It even had two versions, 1.0 and 2.0. Caligari trueSpace could *save* to both formats but was incapable of opening a VRML 2.0 file, even with the extra cost conversion pack.

      I’ve seen some other software with this “feature”. I call them “one take” programs because you had better be able to get your creation perfect the first time, it’s the only chance you get.

  4. Um…. the license agreements for many software products already give rights to created works to the software provider in at least some cases, and in some niches, some pretty big cases.

    For example, the providers of one of the popular on-line CAD tools claims usage to all works created using the tool, and, since work is stored on their server, they can use it or deny the creator access, even, or just make their customers work disappear, as has been done.

      1. The corporate services agreement playbook suggests getting the users to agree to a shrinkwrap EULA that benefits and covers the ass of the provider only.

        If customers make a big enough stink that money might be on the line, redline the EULA as minimally as possible to get them off your back. Then tweet a carefully worded mea culpa and launch a media campaign centered around feel good community cooperation BS.

    1. That is one of the big reasons I have never trusted “the cloud”. The knowledge that when push comes to shove I have literally zero control over anything I would do on someones cloud service and my only guarantee is a double pinky swear that they won’t screw me over.

      1. “The cloud” includes every thing, every place on the internet and WWW where you can put data that’s at the mercy of *someone other than you*. That includes web and FTP servers, e-mail servers too if you’re not using a client that keeps local copies.

        I (and every other Idaho customer of the same ISP) had a website go *poof* when Cyberhighway sold out to Wyoming based Fiberpipe. For some reason, Fiberpipe continued with Cyberhighway operations everwhere the company was, except Idaho. On the eve of Thanksgiving they went into the datacenter in Boise, unplugged and took away EVERYTHING except one telephone, leaving one guy behind to field a lot of irate phone calls.

        Nobody got their data back, no websites, no emails, no files. All gone in an instant.

        Any “cloud” service company can do the exact same thing at any time and there’s not a damn thing you can do if you don’t have a local backup.

        Microsoft did that on April 15th 2010 when they shut down the online service for the original Xbox. At some point they’ll “tax day” the Xbox 360 instead of shunting it off to a legacy service that no longer gets any new updates and gets left to sit there until only a small number of people are still using it, like they could have done with the original Xbox. Give it a final going over for security issues then ‘put it in a closet and forget it’. No support, don’t ask us any questions about it. If you want exciting new stuff buy a new Xbox 360! But Microsoft chose to pee on everyone still using the original Xbox online.- and in so doing helped sell a lot more Playstation 3’s.

  5. Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
    We pillage plunder, we rifle and loot.
    Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
    We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot.
    Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.

    Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
    We extort and pilfer, we filch and sack.
    Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
    Maraud and embezzle and even highjack.
    Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.

    Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
    We kindle and char and in flame and ignite.
    Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
    We burn up the city, we’re really a fright.
    Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.

    We’re rascals and scoundrels, we’re villians and knaves.
    Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
    We’re devils and black sheep, we’re really bad eggs.
    Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.

    We’re beggars and blighters and ne’er do-well cads,
    Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
    Aye, but we’re loved by our mommies and dads,
    Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
    Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.

    1. Absolutely this. It’s already happening. In most software packages (I’m looking at you, Microsoft) it has become a 10 click ordeal to get back to local storage every time you hit save. Insanity. From there it’s a minor step to a Facebook-like EULA where they retain ownership/usage of data on their servers. It’s coming.

      1. I’ve hated Microsoft since Win 3.0, their recent love-fest with Open Source can’t wash away the stains on their history. I hate them so much that I’ve only used Linux for years, even if it means I can’t get some of the most recent software/games. They are about as moral as Larry Ellison, a.k.a. “sleazy hellspawn bastard”. Yeah, ask me how I really feel.

    2. In that case take you business somewhere else as the risk of loosing everything is unacceptably high as could based services and even entire companies come and go like dandelion flowers.

      1. Last I checked, Google photos and previously Picasa both only allowed Google non-exclusive, sublicensable, but revocable rights to the images, and further clarified that the sublicense was only to be used as a means for them to allow your photos to be used as you wanted. Besically, they could sublicense to proxies or other storage, but only as a means of making your photos more easily visible in which ever manner you chose.

        Personally, Flikr and Facebook both go about their licenses wrong in that regard. I still advise other photogs to store their photos someplace safe with a good, understandable contract, and then link to them from social media. Facebook then only owns the non-revocable rights to a link, and not the actual image.

  6. This is something I have pondered recently when I started using On Shape.

    https://www.onshape.com/

    It’s basically SolidWorks in the cloud. You can design 3D parts from your tablet or smartphone. But unless you pay for a business license, all work you do is public. For my use case, that’s perfectly acceptable. I just want to make stuff for my 3D printer, and it allows you to save your files locally (for now). But being able to work on 3D models from anywhere, anytime is worth it for me. I only have one desktop that is powerful enough to do 3D modeling, and most of my friends don’t even have that. This allows me to share a link and have them edit anything that is out of spec.
    Since I have the option to save a local copy of the STL files, it’s not a big deal that all of it is in the cloud. I’m not doing anything secret, but that would be a major reason to not use this service, because even with a business license, it’s still on their servers

    1. And what happens when onshape start to charge for their free software? You have commited years to the software and built a huge library of designs. Do you fork out the money, or abandon your work? And if they go bust?

      Ditto for Fusion360.

    2. Great, you can save a STL locally, for now. But none of the prior geometry or design intent or actual useful data is saved. That’s like saving a compressed, cropped JPG file and being unable to get access to the original RAW image in full resolution if anything goes down. Nor can you even use the software either in their case.

      You gain a bit of convenience but you sacrifice so much more. That’s (only part of) the problem I have with their model.

    3. +1
      I have had this concern about OnShape from the start, losing my parametric design intent. I actually talked to one of their guys about this, and he seemed to think that few people actually used the parametric ability to make changes to their models after they were done.
      The idea that my entire business would be tied to a piece of software that could disappear or change price or change terms instantly seems like an unreasonable risk.

    4. Want a powerful 3D modeling program for free? One that used to cost a few hundred $? One that includes the Lightworks render engine that as a plugin for Lightwave cost more than this product? Caligari trueSpace.

      Microsoft bought Caligari to obtain trueSpace, intending for it to be used to populate their competitor to Google Earth with 3D content like Google does with Sketchup. Even better, Microsoft made the full featured product FREE, unlike Sketchup that has a free and a not-free version.

      All was good, and trueSpace users welecomed the free-ness of version 7.6! Microsoft would increase the size of the trueSpace team and other wonderful things!

      Then a short time later, Microsoft said “Aw, hell with this! We’re giving up on our GEarth competitor, and trueSpace. You can still download it for free. Kthankxbye!”

      Here’s a still fairly active forum, where you can download unofficial updated versions that have fixed some issues. http://www.united3dartists.com/forum/

      When using trueSpace to make STL’s for 3D printing, you have to set the scene and model scale all to either meters or millimeters. Slicers will interpret both as millimeters. Centimeters may also work, I haven’t tried. Working in Imperial units will result in not-right scaling in slicers. (Would be nice if there’s a slicer that will open those in proper scale.)

      You’ll also want to *always* save in both trueSpace’s native formats as well as STL. Why? Because it has issues interpreting scale properly when importing some file formats. It scales the object to fit its largest axis to exactly 8 units of whatever measurement you have the scene set to.

      With STL that is easy to fix. Open the STL in a slicer and get the XYZ dimensions in mm. In the object properties box in trueSpace, type in the X, Y and Z dimensions with the scene and object set to MM or M. Save in native trueSpace format and you can edit the model. To de-triangulate the model, pop in a cube primitive and move it so it’s not intersecting the model. Right click the subtract icon and check the delete edges box. Select the model, click subtract then click the cube. Any triangulation of any face with 4 or more edges which are perfectly planar will be deleted.

      Before saving as STL, click the triangulate icon. Sometimes the triangulation of the STL exporter gets things wrong.

      Just remember to keep saving your changes in native format! When you Save As it adds and auto-increments a number to the file name so it’s easy to not forget to keep multiple copies in case you want to revert to an earlier stage.

      I’d love to see Microsoft release the source code to trueSpace, even if they have to leave out Lightworks and some other 3rd party stuff Caligari licensed.

      1. “Slicers will interpret both as millimeters. Centimeters may also work, I haven’t tried. Working in Imperial units will result in not-right scaling in slicers. (Would be nice if there’s a slicer that will open those in proper scale.)”

        Thanks for the warning! I like my inches, but will make an exception.

  7. I have a license to use and distribute OpenSCAD, so do you, love it or not. Whysign your work away to a corp who sees you as a cow to be milked, send that same cash to support development of open/libre/free FOSS alternatives and keep the means of production on your HDD.

      1. Very true. At what cost freedom? I use OpenSCAD no matter how much it confuses my friends with their SolidWorks seats. I’m working my way through the FreeCAD video tutorials though.

        1. Does FreeCAD’s involute gear creator support both module and Diametral pitch yet? It’s silly for any CAD or 3D software to not support both. It’s not like there’s no room for the formulas to do both, or that the programmers have to come up with it on their own, the math is all over the web, and equipment with both types of gears is all over the world. One toggle to choose, which alters the input form, or a separate tab for each.

          Ever seen a 2.75 Module gear? Those were created to fill a void left by the entire gear industry deciding that 14 Diametral Pitch was “obsolete” not long after WW2. Well some machine tool manufacturers decided 14DP would be ideal for their needs, but nobody made 14DP gears, or cutters to make them except at extra extra cost special order – and these companies were doing everything metric anyway.

          So in the late 70’s 2.75MOD was created. It is >thisclose< in dimensions to 14DP. They'll almost but not quite mesh perfectly. But the machine tool industry seems to have a particular disdain for gears like that and by some time in the 90's 2.75MOD was "obsolete" and getting those custom made can cost even more than 14DP. At least some gear cutter companies list 14DP as a non-stock special order, and one company in the UK lists 14DP gears as stock items, but only in 20 degree pressure angle.

          If I owned a machine tool company I'd be tempted to have some geartrain on a machine made with 14DP or 2.75MOD just to thumb my nose at the rest of the business.

      2. And having all your designs locked up where you can’t get to them won’t be a pain? Face it, there is going to be some pain somewhere. Either in the learning, or in the loss and THEN the learning.

    1. I am working on a Python library which is supposed to eventually be a lot like “OpenSCAD”, but it creates Blender objects/scenes instead. That way, you can even “debug” your script by inspecting the created geometry. The standard Blender API is already capable of creating any shape you may want, but it is hardly convenient. So my API allows you to do things like ‘root.rotate(up, 90).cube().difference(root.cylinder(radius=0.5, height=1.5))’.

      But it’s going a bit slowly… The current master version is still missing a ton of features: github.com/akloster/blender-vraag

      Currently I am working on refactoring the construction library into multiple files and I have added a couple of primitives like Empty objects and a basic extruder. I plan on adding more primitives (spheres, torus, pyramids, cones…) and less-primitives like gears. Another part will be an animation library with the same JQuery-like feel to it.

      Blender isn’t meant to be a CAD program, but it turns out it can fill that role to some extend. Not only is the GUI interface much more capable than OpenScad’s, it will also lead to easier rendering, exporting and project management.

      1. Tried to test solvespace:
        Gone into download, where there is only exe, source and unknown packages. No explanation, no linux packages, no build instruction.
        End up using windows version, start it. Closed it after 30s.
        This software is maybe good, but usability is 10 years backward and I cannot see anything with the color choice they make (low contrast and black background is horrible), I didn’t find where to change it and quite frankly I won’t bother.

  8. Hmm. Sounds a lot like some of the more viral Open Source Licenses… “You used our XYZ library, so now we get to tell you how you can and can’t distribute your full product.”

    1. Yep… but in this case, with GPL and similar licenses, you are free to negotiate with the original authors of the software you wish to use, and pay them for an alternate license. This is often true of commercial software too.

      If it’s just one author, this is practical. If it’s many like the Linux kernel or Das U-Boot bootloader, you’ll be negotiating with thousands of people (me included). Not impossible, but very expensive and time consuming.

    2. I was to answer this: “I disagree. With open source programs the result of your work is yours: you can compile privative software with GCC, create privative documents with Libreoffice, paint privative pictures with GIMP or Inkscape… Using a library is more like using predefined elements in CAD, like when you buy, let’s say, an ethernet module design for a chip design, or a car model to use in your movie (something that, in fact, is very common today). You always can avoid buying them and design them from scratch, and the same with that XYZ library. But if you want to use that library/ethernet module/car model, you must comply with the license.”

      But then I read the original link and found that this was precisely what happened: they used predefined elements in their designs. Not “fonts” or “fancy borders”, but construction elements. Using these elements saves them a lot of time (and, thus, money), so in this case it makes sense.

      In my opinion, the point whether it makes sense or not relies in a simple question: “The user can replace those elements with others created by him/her self without defeating the logical use of the program”? An example: a word processor that only has privative fonts is useless. If you can choose between privative and free fonts, then it is reasonable to use this kind of licenses with the privative fonts.

  9. Whats next? LEGO claiming ownership of anything made with its bricks because all such models contain the LEGO logo somewhere?

    Someone needs to make a list of companies that do scummy things like this so people like me know who to boycott…

    1. Lego refused to provide Lego blocks to an artist because they didn’t agree with the point of view being presented as art.

      If you want a list then start with paypal and visa who would not allow *their* cards/payment systems to be used to donate to wikileaks. Who’s money is it then, yours or paypal/visa? Well who has the final decision?

      1. LEGO refused to fulfill a bulk order for Ai Weiwei, which is their right. You can disagree with their reasoning but they can’t be forced to do business with any particular entity. (Discrimination laws don’t apply since bulk orders are not the usual way people acquire LEGO). Presumably there was nothing to prevent Weiwei from going to a retail toy store and buying anything there, including LEGO, that he might want to use in his work.

        Similarly, PayPal took a lot of flack on the wikileaks thing (and many other, less prominent donations) not because they blocked transactions but because they allowed the debited the donation amount from the donating accounts but didn’t forward the money to the intended recipient, which runs afoul of all kinds of laws. This was about the time the government reminded PayPal that they looked an awful lot like a bank and quacked a lot like a bank so maybe it would be a good idea for them to start following the laws that other banks follow. This was also when they finally started paying interest on money in balances, and doing other bookkeeping that banks are required to do.

  10. Microsoft are already doing this with their office suite… through the use of the Calibri font:

    This font, along with Cambria, Candara, Consolas, Corbel and Constantia, is also distributed with Microsoft Excel Viewer, Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer,[6][7] the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack[8] for Microsoft Windows and the Open XML File Format Converter for Mac.[9] For use in other operating systems, such as GNU/Linux, cross-platform use and web use it is not available as a freeware.

    The typeface is licensed by Ascender Corporation for sale to end users, consumer electronics device manufacturers and other users. The typeface is also licensed by Monotype Imaging to printer manufacturers as part of the Vista 8 Font Set package.

    In other words… if you wish to use these fonts elsewhere… you need to buy them, or use an alternative, or documents written with that font won’t display correctly due to the characters each occupying dimensions that differ from the original font, causing paragraphs to flow differently. There is an alternate font that works around this issue, but it won’t look exactly the same, and that could be an issue for some people.

    1. The statement makes no claim on the content produced using those fonts–e.g., a report printed using Calibri isn’t restricted nor claimed by Microsoft. It just says you can’t use those fonts themselves for other purposes (e.g., copying and installing them on a Linux machine) without first purchasing it separately.

      On the other hand, look at some of the terms of service for something like Autodesk’s 123Design or other cloud-enabled CAD software. If you upload your designs to their cloud-enable storage service, you don’t give them ownership but you do give them the perpetual right to use your designs any way they wish.

      1. This is true in part… they aren’t claiming rights on the content, but rather, its display. By restricting the distribution of the font, they are effectively restricting who can render that document as the author intended.
        Embedding the font (e.g. in a PDF) is legally problematic.
        Given the advent of services like Office365, I wouldn’t put it past Microsoft to consider such tweaks to their terms of service. At best we have a promise that they won’t look. If they see Autodesk doing this and getting away with it, then it is possible they might be tempted into doing the same.

          1. That’s simply incorrect.

            What’s simply incorrect? I made a couple of statements there. That you’re not allowed to distribute the font? That embedding the font is problematic?

            Why do they offer a special license for use in CSS @font rules then?

            Your first link is old enough it references Windows NT 4 and Macromedia. The latter has almost no detail as to where the fonts may be embedded. My point about being “legally problematic” stands.

  11. Coming from the graphics industry, read and understand all the licenses for the software and content you use or don’t use it, simple as that. Always check if you can export to older offline versions in case of emergencies with sufficient integrity. The adobe suite has features for this which has worked well in the past, but can sometimes give unexpected results. Other design software may be less well supported to export to offline applications.
    I know google usually puts data from their end-of-life cloud products into data files on the google drive so you can still access whatever was in that service. The form that you can access this varies, and may not be importable into a similar application.
    It’s always prudent to keep your escape routes open, and regularly checked.
    In my opinion it’s not a good think to be dependent on emerging cloudbased applications. All cloud based applications have a risk to stop their service for whatever reason. Better make sure you can cope with the implications when they do. While some cloud services like Amazon and SalesForce have the foremost interest in continuity, just imagine the mayhem if one of those go bust, or gets blocked by the government.

  12. Time to quickly buy shares in pencil makers because the ruling could make all classic design using the lead of propriety pencils partly owned by the pencil company. And I’m sure the empire state building for instance is still worth a pretty penny.

  13. The way I read the court process is that it’s more about weather or not copy-write laws can be extended to parties that collaborate with China to bypass these laws. There won’t be any dramatic precedent here which is a shame.

    Another big barrier to this (especially for the US) is that the department of defence (being a huge consumer) is not going to accept design that has external copy-write or is floating around in the cloud somewhere. Realistically, in most countries to design classified equipment, noting less than a system that is completely air gapped from external data paths is acceptable to defence.

    Of course, Mr (or Mz, Ms, Miss) average designer like us here can vote with our feet. I dropped Eagle as soon as they went to a Software as a Service (SaaS) model and I am now making my way though the learning curve of KiCAD. I have also dropped any software that stores my data in the cloud.

    The real problem is probably not going to be with engineers tools. It’s far more likely for general consumers to accept these service models.

    It’s been the case for some time that services are like this and hence the coining of the phrase “Software as a SERVICE”. Most of the services that I pay for will set up repeat billing when first set up. So I always pay with paypal instead of a card so the service provider doesn’t have a card number and can only repeat bill with paypal. So I just go into paypal and delete the repeat billing.

    The real problem here is that corporation are positioning themselves for more control (profit) over consumers. In this process they are becoming less and less ethical. Everything is floated on the stock market now and CEO’s have to worry more about a backlash from greedy share holders who only have pursuit of money in mind and less about a backlash from customers are now more or less *the* commodity. ie how many consumers can obtained and at what profit margin. A CEO needs to attract the highest number of consumers that provide the greatest profit and the rest can go to hell. There is no heart or sole or humanity in it, the consumer *is* the commodity.

  14. I use OpenSCAD, FreeCAD, and KiCAD precisely because too many CAD companies fail me in one or both of two main areas: Too expensive for a hobbyist and demand some sort of control over my original works. These two things are deal breakers for me, and as a result, they’re losing my business. Would I use other software if they fit these two requirements? Of course! FreeCAD and KiCAD have pretty terrible user interfaces. They’re clearly just a collection of individual projects that became a Frankenstein’s Monster of sorts. I’d much prefer to use 123D or something like that, but I won’t give my rights away to a corporation for their profit even if it’s a doorstop. I prefer to give it to humanity in the form of OSS and OSH.

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