Certification For Open Source Hardware Announced

Today at the Open Hardware Summit in Portland, Alicia Gibb and Michael Weinberg of the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) launched the Open Source Hardware Certification program. It’s live, and you can certify your own hardware as Open Hardware right now.

What Is Open Source Hardware?

Open Source Hardware can’t be defined without first discussing open source software. At its very core, open source software is just a copyright hack, enabled by a worldwide universal computer network. The rise of open source software is tied to the increasing ease of distributing said software, either through BBSes, Usenet, and the web. Likewise, Open Source Hardware is tied to the ease of distributing, modifying, and building hardware.

In the 1980s, there were no services that could deliver a custom circuit board to anywhere on the planet for a dollar per square inch. When open software began, CNC machines were expensive tools, now you can build a very good machine for just a week’s wages. We are currently living at the dawn of Open Source Hardware, enabled by the creation of Open Source design tools that have themselves been used to create physical tools. Inexpensive 3D printers, open source oscilloscopes, circuit board plotters, and the entire hackerspace movement are as revolutionary as the Internet. These devices and the Internet are the foundations for Open Hardware and software, respectively.  The objections to why hardware is incompatible with Open Source no longer apply and small-scale manufacturing techniques are only going to get better.

Open source is a moral imperative in the truest Kantian sense of the word. It is a good unto itself. Of course, this means open source is also mind-numbingly prescriptivist. Holy scrolls have defined dozens of different open source licenses. The relevant license for Open Source Hardware has already been laid out to define the freedoms and responsibilities of all Open Source Hardware creators. Open Source Hardware is a tangible thing, from a laptop to a lampshade, whose design is available so anyone can make, modify, distribute, and sell that thing. Native documentation is required, and software required to run this thing must be based on an OSI-approved license.

The definition of Open Source Hardware has been around for a few years now, and since then the community has flourished, there’s a great gear logo, and you can buy real, functional hardware that bills itself as Open Source Hardware. It’s become a selling point, and this has become a problem.

Many hardware creators don’t adhere to the definition of Open Source Hardware. In some cases, the design files simply aren’t available. If they are, they could be unmodifiable. The software used to create these design files could cost thousands of dollars per seat. This is the problem the movement faces — Open Source Hardware must have a certification program. Unlike open source software, where the source is almost proof enough that a piece of software complies with an open source license, hardware does not have such obvious assurances.

Software Is Closed By Default, Hardware Is Open And The Licenses Are Harder

All software is closed by default. Anything written is covered by copyright, and the developers of open source software choose to license their works under an open source license. Open source software, then, is a copyright hack, enabled because all software is closed by default.

Hardware, on the other hand, is open by default. If you build a device to automatically inject epinephrine intramuscularly, you must go out of your way to patent your device. Only a patent will give you the ability to license your work, and before that patent is published anyone can make their own epinephrine pen. If you build something with an FPGA, the code that programs the FPGA is covered by copyright, but an arbitrary circuit that uses that FPGA isn’t. Any generic piece of Open Source Hardware could be covered under patents, trademarks, and a dozen licenses. Therefore, an Open Source Hardware license is impractical. This is why OSHWA is not releasing an Open Source Hardware license, and instead creating an Open Source Hardware certification program. No Open Source Hardware license could cover every edge case, and a certification is ultimately the only solution.

The Open Source Hardware Certification Program

At last year’s Open Hardware Summit, OSHWA formally announced the creation of the Open Hardware Certification program. Now, this program is live, and the certification database will growing very, very quickly. At its heart, the Open Source Hardware Certification program is pretty simple — create hardware that complies with the community definition of Open Source Hardware.

The theoretical basis for the need of an Open Source Hardware license is the fact that anyone is able to manufacture hardware. Of course, there are limits to technology and no one has a 14nm silicon fab line in their garage. This is a problem for any piece of Open Source Hardware, and the technical capability for anyone to recreate integrated circuits and other high technologies is the sole source of the traditional objections to any open hardware license. Garage-based fabrication is always improving, though, but closed hardware in the form of NDA’d chips will remain a problem for years to come.

The clearest example of the problem with closed-source chips is bunnie’s Novena laptop. This laptop is designed as both a hacker’s laptop and an artifact of Open Hardware. Although most of the chips used in the Novena are available without signing NDAs, open source, and blob-free 3D graphics acceleration was unavailable when the laptop launched. This non-open graphics problem will be fixed with open source drivers, but it does illustrate the problem of Open Source Hardware. Even though chips might be available, there might be binary blobs required for full functionality. You can build an Open Hardware chip in VHDL, but it’s not really open if you have to use closed-source FPGA dev tools.

OSHWA’s solution to this problem is simply asking for hardware creators to act in good faith. The certification program won’t knock points off for using closed source binary blobs if that’s the only way of doing something. Open Source Hardware is just slightly more aware of the pace of technical progress, and what is closed today may be open tomorrow. Building a piece of Open Source Hardware isn’t an all or nothing proposal; just give your best effort to make it open, and technology or reverse engineers will probably make it more open in the future.

oshwOf course, with any certification program, there must be some effort given to enforcement. If an Open Hardware project is certified under the program but does not meet the guidelines of the certification program, fines may be levied against the project creators. Again, good faith of the project creator is assumed, and a project found not in compliance with the certification program will be given 90 days to either fix the problem or remove the project from the certification program. After 90 days, there’s a 120-day period of public shaming, and after that small fines of $500 per month. The worst offender will get a fine of up to $10,000 per month, but that would require years of non-compliance, and it’s very doubtful any conflict with OSHWA will ever reach that stage. It should be noted these fines have a legal basis in the trademark of the OSHW certification logo, and if you don’t use the OSHW logo or certify your project, there’s nothing OSHWA can do.

The old Open Source Hardware ‘gear’ logo — unquestionably a better logo — will still remain in use, and no one is going will look down on you for using it. Using the trademarked OSHW logo, though, is the only way any certification program can be enforced.

The Objections To Open Source Hardware

Of course, the Open Source Hardware Certification program has been more than two years in the making, and that’s time enough for a few people to start having very strong opinions about it. A few years ago, Saar Drimer of Boldport said he won’t be using the Open Source Hardware logo on his boards. This is despite the fact that he loves Open Source Hardware, has written open source PCB design software, and offers a 20% discount on open source contract work. His reason is simple: adding a logo brings baggage, and building Open Source Hardware is not mutually exclusive with putting a logo on a board. Dave Jones is a big supporter of Open Hardware, but he realizes the famous gear logo is becoming meaningless through abuse.

You need only look back on the last twenty or thirty years of the world of Open Source Software to get a sense of where Saar and Dave are coming from; Stallman does not believe in a moral imperative to Open Hardware, whereas most everyone in attendance of today’s Open Hardware Summit does. Gnome versus KDE is nothing compared to the religious war we potentially face between various Open Hardware philosophies. The Open Source Hardware community is relearning what the open source software community learned twenty years ago. We can only hope to learn from their missteps.

But Open Source Hardware has a much bigger obstacle to adoption than politicking and empire building. Open source software is a simple concept — you have a (copy) right to whatever software, music, words, or boat hull designs you create. You can, therefore, give others the right to use, study, share, and modify that work. Physical objects and artifacts do not have copyright, they have patents. Patent law in the United States is atrocious, and just because you were the first to create a useful invention doesn’t mean a patent would be invalidated. This is the greatest challenge to anything developed as Open Source Hardware. The only solution to this is prior art and patent inspectors that know where to look.

This Will Take a While to Work Out

The Open Source Hardware Certification program is going to take a while to unravel. OSHWA doesn’t believe this certification program will be a repository used by patent inspectors looking for prior art. The legal basis for the certification is literally built upon every piece of intellectual property law. It is, perhaps, an answer to the most complex legal questions ever: what is property, what is intellectual property and can the concept of physical things be given away.

No one has an answer to these questions, or at least an answer that can be summed up in one-page FAQ. The Open Source Hardware Certification program is an attempt to answer these questions, and so far it’s the best attempt yet.

None of this matters unless the community gets behind it, and if another competing Open Source Hardware certification or license pops up, the community may very well migrate to that. Judging from the last thirty years of open source software license drama, we can only hope that the community figures this out the first time, and we hope this certification program is a rousing success.

70 thoughts on “Certification For Open Source Hardware Announced

  1. I like the idea, but it seems to be more of a threat to my projects than an aid. Yes, people will see I have open-source hardware. But if something turns out not to be fully complaint that fine/negative publicity really makes me question the actual benefits. As far as licensing open-source hardware goes, you can have an open license with a patent that essentially just enforces GPL-esque compliance in hectic scenarios. That way everyone gets to use it, no one’s freedoms are violated, and no fines/shaming.

  2. Open Hardware is still broken. It’s not legally enforceable. It relies on good faith. That means that this is only a stick and not a carrot. It can only hurt but cannot help. All this means is that someone can control the Open Hardware brand and the people authorized to use it. It doesn’t mean that things become more open, or the license more enforceable.

    1. Damn dude.. you nailed it on the second post. Great job. This is stupid unless someone is willing to spend a TON of time in court over an LED driver breakout board, which no one is.

  3. I liked Dave’s suggestion from EEVBlog better. Anyway, I’m normally too lazy to go through some verification/certification process, I’m more interested in building stuff than, being recognizing as being of some group. So my designs will be still available open source but without that logo I guess

    1. Same here. I just release all my stuff to Public Domain. Still open source and I don’t have to bother with sticking to someone else’s rules. If I wanted to get rich, I’d be a banker. If I wanted fame, I’d be an actor. I only want to learn, so I tinker.

  4. Yes, Open Source Hardware brought us affordable technology like 3D printers. With the long term effect, that the original inventors largely either went out of business (RepRapPro, others) or went at least partially closed (MakerBot, Teensy, to name a few).

    Worst of this, people are perfectly fine with this. Just look at comments to yesterdays article about “Tiny Smoothies”:

    [Brian Benchoff]: The bootloader is closed source. Paul does enough open source contribs to libraries, so that more than makes up for it.

    [jack laidlaw]I don’t care that it is closed source, Paul offers an amazing product with A+ support, …

    Closed source hardware receives good community support as long as it’s cheap.

    Ignorance of this fact is what disappoints me about the OSHWA. Other than software, creating hardware requires a working business model and the OSHWA license puts a lot of emphasis on making this impossible. Especially with their insistence on the “ability to sell”. This won’t lead anywhere.

    I’m also pretty sure that it isn’t the “ability to sell” which makes Open Source Hardware successful in some niches, but the ability to look at the design in detail. That’s entirely sufficient to build a movement and get technology forward.

    Currently I favor initiatives like Linux Defenders (http://www.linuxdefenders.org/) much over OSHWA’s efforts. Defending against patents is an effort which matches reality, brings us published designs and, most important, allows working business models.

      1. Yes, I do. People don’t care about “Open Source”, much less about -NC clauses. They care about wether their gadget works. As the quotations above and the popularity of cheapo-chinese stuff nicely demonstrates.

        1. “The quotations above” is anecdotal evidence. If internet comments were representative of humanity, I’d be in favor of mass genocide … The kind of people who comment here are ( more than in the general population ), people with “unusual” opinions they want to share. You’ll hear much more of the “nanana open-hardware is doomed anyway”, or “only bsd is really free” people here, than there are people with those actual opinions. That doesn’t mean it’s representative of anything.

          The popularity of cheapo-chinese stuff doesn’t demonstrate anything either. You have to skip over the fact that some people don’t have a choice what they’ll buy. Then you have people who are not educated about exactly what is OSHW, but would choose OSHW if they did. Then you have people who are being mislead about something being OSHW or not. Then if you are left with people who actually can choose what they buy, A LOT ( not everyone ) of people will actively choose what is OSHW over what is not.

          We’ve had people actually send back closed-source derivatives of Smoothie when they realized they had been mislead and the boards were proprietary.

          I think you have you are very bad at making a difference between your personal opinions, and what the people around you actually think.

          Reprap would have worked if it were -NC ? Wikipedia too ? Linux ? Firefox ? Arduino ? That’s really your position here ?

          1. How is this an assault ??
            I’m trying to have a conversation about this stuff, and you keep starting the conversation, getting it to about the point we are at now, and then backing down with some sort of excuse. Last time you felt “threatened” by me …

            We have opposed positions. There are only two possibilities here :
            * Either only one of those positions is right
            * Or there is some kind of misunderstanding and if we define things more clearly we’ll figure out we agree

            I really want to get to the truth here. If I’m wrong I want to know. Don’t you ?

            This is important stuff, you have power in the Reprap project, you should be open to figuring out this sort of core issue, or it is going to cause problems ( and I feel it does ).

        1. Well the point of -NC kinda is that *only* ReprapPro would be in business :)

          Obviously there are ways around that, but they are much more difficult than with a properly Open-Source license.

          With -NC at the start, we wouldn’t have had the explosion of derivatives and companies we did, which are *what* made the project succesful and what created innovation.

          There were other 3D printing projects that were closed or -NC at the time : Reprap is the one that won out BECAUSE it is properly Open-Source. Same thing for Arduino, Wikipedia, etc.

          I asked a bunch of people from the beginning of the project about this ( including Adrian ), and that was their point of view as well. Same thing in the Smoothie project, in the various OSHW lasercutting projects … I really think your view of “Open-Source doesn’t matter” really is an isolated one. Obviously you’ll find anecdotal examples of people with the same opinion you have, but it really is not something that is common …

    1. Yeah, I don’t quite understand the OSHWA certification giving permission for anyone to both manufacture and sell the hardware? I fully support open design files and manufacturing for personal use but why allow selling? This really means that the original creator of the hardware may not gain any financial benefit from all the time and hard work put in to any open source project, which I don’t think makes a whole lot of sense!

      1. That’s what you’d expect to happen without thinking about it much. However, if you research this, or think about it more deeply, you’ll find that not only do people actually have no problem making money off Open-Source Hardware, it also in the end really make very little difference on the sales front.
        Where it’s going to make a huge difference though, is in terms of engaging the community into the project, and building a community around the project.
        I sell OSHW. I started the project, but would never have had such an awesome project without the community’s contributions. And that community would never have contributed this much if I had restricted -NC use. We end up with a much higher quality product, awesome community-produced documentation and code, our customer support is in large part done by others … and the only negative thing that not restricting to -NC really changed for the project, is a few % difference in the time it would take chinese cloners to reverse-engineer the product … That’s about it. And that’s not per-se because of lacking the -NC clause, but simply because lacking it generally means the project is better/more deeply documented.

    1. You agree to pay the fine ( if/when it comes to that ) when you sign up, very simply … The way the thing is setup, I expect nobody will ever get to pay the fine, but the fact that it’s there means people will be doing things not to pay the fine. It’s just there to prevent silence and inactivity.

  5. is it just me or does this sound like someone trying to insert themselves where they dont belong?

    fine if they want to actually work on a standard but to call it the definitive list of what is open source or not as well as reserving the right to punish those not in compliance, is a bit of a stretch to put it mildly.

    1. I agree. I don’t need to talk to anyone else or sign any agreements to make something and give away the plans. This smells like people trying to monetize something that is inherently about freedom of information. People who see Open Source as a way to become rich confuse me. This isn’t about money, it’s about moving humanity forward.

  6. I design and sell Open-Hardware, but more importantly, I’m part of a community that designs, develops and improves Open-Source and Open-Hardware stuffs ( smoothieware.org ).
    In that community, people contribute *because* the project is Open-Hardware, and *expect* their work to continue being Open-Hardware ( as per the license ). They like sharing, and they like the freedoms the license provides to them, and to others who will come after and use or contribute to the project.

    If everyone were respectful, this all would be awesome : project grows and progresses, everybody’s work is respected, new awesome things are created.

    However, there are people and companies that do not care about respecting the community’s work. They see it all just as a way to make a quick buck. They will take Open-Hardware, and design derivatives ( that they would never/very difficultly have been able to create without the original design existing ), that they release as proprietary ( either fully closed-source, or restricting commercial use ).

    What is important to understand, is that the work they are deriving from, the work they didn’t do, was done by people, who did it with the intent of it being shared, and shared by giving specific freedoms to the community. They wouldn’t have done this work if others had not shared other work with them, and they shared this work expecting it to be respected. When you do not respect those freedoms ( license ), you do not respect the original work, you do not respect the community, you do not respect the intent. You are essentially just a parasite.

    Now that’s already bad, but on top of that, some of those people/companies who parasitically take without sharing, when what they were given was given with the strict condition that they share back in turn, some of those people/companies ON TOP OF THAT fake being sharers. Some of them pretend to be Open-Hardware, or Open-Source, when they are not.
    This goes from just tags/keywords, to mentionning they are Open-Source in product description, all the way up to using the Open-Hardware logo on their products.
    *Not only* is that bad as it is, but what makes it worse is it’s extremely common for people to not check it ( why would you ) and believe the claim that it’s OSHW or OS, and therefore choose specifically to give their business or time to that specific thing *because* they think it’s OSHW or OS, when it is not.
    That is stealing.

    A less clear-cut issue, but still problematic, is projects that do not claim directly to be OSHW, but because they are *clearly* derivatives of OSHW, and *should* ( from a moral standpoint ) be OSHW, users/contributors *assume* they are OSHW ( why wouldn’t they be ), leading to the same kinds of problems.

    I know lots of you here don’t care about whether something is really OSHW or not. You do not matter in this conversation. The point is : A LOT of people do care A LOT if something is ( properly ) OSHW or not. And those people are being mislead, their work is not being respected, and they are essentially being stolen from.

    This is why this sort of initiative is a good thing. It will help in fighting against those who will mislead and suck the blood off of communities and projects. It makes things clearer.
    If you don’t care about OSHW, or you think it’s doomed, or whatever else, that’s cool.
    There are people who care, people who share their work but want that work to be respected, and want others to keep being able to share that work, and be free. That’s what OSHW is about, and we should protect that.

    Thanks, OSHWA.

    1. ” They will take Open-Hardware, and design derivatives ( that they would never/very difficultly have been able to create without the original design existing ), that they release as proprietary ( either fully closed-source, or restricting commercial use ).”

      That’s reverse engineering 101 and hasn’t been solved in non-free hardware.

      1. Sure. We’ve seen them in turn getting reverse-engineered, cloned, *and complaining about it*. The point is even if it’s an already existing and identified problem, it changes nothing to the fact it’s bad, disrespectful to the original work, and should be fought against.

  7. Excited to be part of the inaugural class of OSHWA certified products. I spoke with Michael a bit after his announcement and it’s clear that they have given this a lot of thought. It’s a great step for the community.

  8. If people decide not to back a crowd funding effort for an innovative or even useful bit of kit because it doesn’t contain a OSHWA logo, is that a good thing? If that becomes the norm among the masses and a product team looking for crowdfunding support can’t certify because of some encumbrance out of their control, is that a good thing?

    Certifications address disclosure problems by the original creators. Those problems are not rampant at the moment. Certifications do nothing to protect the lineage of design from nefarious people (or nations). They also create more work for innovators, many of which are part time entrepreneurs with an already full plate.

    1. More work ? I *just* went through the process, it took 10 minutes, and it didn’t require me to change anything to the project, everything they require we already do, and they are simple and very obvious things to be doing when doing Open-Source Hardware.

      Your idea of “can’t certify because of something outside of their control” is also taken into account in the process, and wouldn’t be blocking.

      And if people decide not to back something because it’s not OSHWA, that’s their decision, This process is great because it actually helps people know if something is OSHWA or not, in a world where we’ve seen many people/projects lie about that …

  9. If I give one of my designs away, then I give it away, sometime it contains code I developed from other projects an i won’t the release source to it, but I will give away the binary. All my choice, take the design if you want it, I do it for fun.

    1. Releasing part of your project as closed binary means you (rather than a big community) have to compile/test/release it often to keep it running on a constantly moving ecosystem that is the OSS world (new OSes, library versions, architectures etc.); this would in the end cost time and money.
      When considering the release of partially Open Source projects, that hidden cost of keeping some parts closed should also be taken into account.
      I’m surely stretching it a bit, but you see what I mean.

  10. OSHW is one of the open source hardware licenses. It is just a brand with its own logo and own rules and limitations.

    If you are not happy with the terms, there are other open source licenses that may suit you better. In the software world, there are different open source licenses for different ideologies. They are all considered as open source.

    1. Actually, OSHW is a general type of license. Any license that respects those basic OSHW rules is a OSHW license. It’s very simple : http://www.oshwa.org/definition/
      The OSHWA is a non-profit that created the OSHW logo to improve the ability to “recognize” if something is OSHW or not, and is now making sure people don’t abuse it.

    2. It is one particular license made up by oshwa.org and do not represent all of Open Source.

      One can claim their hardware as open source using a different license. In the software world, there are licenses that one can use without needing to be certified nor do they carry penalty. Remember folks, it is all about freedom of choice.

      1. OSHWA does not represent the whole Universe of Open Source Hardware. It is only a subset. They are not the guardian for *all* of Open Source. They do not speak for everyone.

        If the authors of a project want more commercial control, but still want to release the source code to the end users. They can using a *different* open source license which *may not* be under OSHWA’s guideline.
        The end effect is that the end users still have access to the source code. At the end of the day, that’s the spirit of Open Source. That’s all that matter to some. May be not to you or OSHWA.

        1. So you are saying if it restricts commercial use, it’s still open-source ?
          If it also prevents you from modifying the files, it’s still open-source ?
          If it then prevents you from sharing the files … still open-source then ?

          Open-source means you get a certain set of freedoms, which include the freedom of commercial use. If it doesn’t, it’s not Open-Source. Or the word means nothing, and nobody cares about meaningless words. The f*in UN recognises the meaning of Open-Source I’m describing here. OSHWA just protects it, it did not make it up.

        2. >If it also prevents you from modifying the files, it’s still open-source ?
          >If it then prevents you from sharing the files … still open-source then ?

          These two can be done by end users for *non-commercial use*. Other end user share the modifications and having access to the code in the community. That’s is still considered as open source.

          Open source can happen without granting the commercial freedom. There are projects in the software world that carry dual licenses – open for end users, but have to be licensed for products. e.g. ChibiOS.

          They are still considered as Open Source software by many, but not by *you*. Looks like you do not believe that. That’s why I said your believe is only a subset of a larger Universe.

          1. That’s not Open-Source though, that’s “you can read the source and do a bunch of arbitrary things with it”. Open-Source is a specific set of freedoms ( pretty much the same as free/libre ). It’s recognized by most nations, by the UN, by wikipedia, by science, by all major OS projects I can think of, by everybody I work with, everybody I’ve done Open-Source with. The only folks I ever hear with that weird definition you got, are a few isolated internet commenters …

            I’m sorry but that’s just open-washing.

            And I really don’t see what you mean about dual licensing … it doesn’t matter if there are multiple license : if any of those licenses fit the definiton of Open-Source, it’s Open-Source. Otherwise it’s not. Simple. How does that matter here ?

          2. We all know you have your own definition of “Open Source” and consider everything different from it not “Open Source”. You are dragging on a pointless argument as neither you or I (and others) are going to convince the other group to change their believe.

            That’s like religion or other type of endless ideology clashes. At the end of the day, it is a larger Universe out there with variously degrees of freedom that are different than yours. There are no binary “yes” or “No” and the world is more different level of “freedom”. e.g. some “free” countries allow you to carry guns while others don’t.

            That’s the whole point of “Universe”. Learn to accept other’s opinions and we can all be happy. Or would you rather get your brand of “freedom” and everything else without being able to see source code?

          3. This is the problem : this is not opinion.
            I do not have “my own” definition of Open-Source, I’m telling you what, in our culture and society, is the definition of Open-Source. I didn’t make it up, I didn’t choose that it be the generally accepted definition, I am just reporting to you that it is.
            This is not dogma, this is not religion, this is not opinion.

            Open-source software (OSS) is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.
            ( And about the same thing is true for OSHW ).

            This is the generally accepted definition of Open-Source. That is a fact.

            If you go ahead and invent a different definition in your head, it doesn’t make both definitions equally valid.

            [ and also please don’t bring guns into this :) that’s really really not necessary ]

          4. Your definition is actually more towards “Free” – “freedom to do whatever with” rather than “Open Source” – “availability of source code and/or modification”.

            See RW’s link: Under the “Approvals table”
            e.g. Apple License 2.0. It is “Limited” under Modification, but recognized by OSI and Fedora. So it is still considered as “Open Source”.

            So different levels of grey an no binary “yes” or “no” in the software world.

          5. @Traumflug : So, we are discussing, whether or not the definition of Open-Source I’m putting forward ( which includes the freedom of commercial use ), is the generally accepted definition, or not. That’s the question we are working on.
            My position is that yes, Open-Source’s generally accepted definition, includes that freedom of commercial use ( “NC is not Open-Source” ), and your position is that no, Open-Source’s generally accepted definition, doesn’t include that freedom of commercial use ( “NC is also Open-Source” ). Do I have your position right, here ?

            Then, as an argument in that discution, you point out that 68% of CC ( Creative Commons ) licenses have the -NC clause. I’m sorry but how does that further your position ?

            Does the CC -NC clause have written in it somewhere “by choosing this license, I not only restrict the commercial use, but also side with the people who think that -NC is valid open-source” ?
            I don’t think so.

            Not only that, but there are few -NC licenses around compared to the number of non-NC licenses, which is what explains the popularity of the CC-BY-NC. If you had in mind that this 68% is representative of “overall” license statistics, you got that wrong. It’s 68% within the CC family just because that family happens to have as it’s member the most popular -NC license. It’s certainly not representative of anything global. Plenty of other license families don’t have a -NC license in them … should I use those families as a proof that -NC licenses do not exist ? See the flaw in the logic here ?

            And on top of that, you kinda shot yourself in the foot here by choosing CC as an example : CC themselves are on the “-NC is not Open-Source” side of the fence. Just because they provide a -NC license doesn’t mean they think it’s Open-Source. Just because people choose -NC for their project doesn’t mean they think it’s Open-Source ( though people like you sometimes muddy the waters and get people to be in error ).

            Usage statistics of -NC licenses is not relevant to our conversation, but let me point out some problems with the stat anyway :
            That page you pointed out admits that it’s data is unreliable, it’s *at best* a first try at getting some data, but there’s no reason to think that data is meaningful. It also mentions flickr, which is a place where you’ll find an unusually high amount of -NC ( for artwork ) compared to say the OSS and OSHW worlds, though it’s not clear if that mention of flickr has an impact on the results.

            If you want another, more recent source for statistics on licenses, take a look here : https://github.com/blog/1964-open-source-license-usage-on-github-com . -NC isn’t even mentioned there. It’s possible they ignored it because it’s not Open-Source … ok just checked, the software they used to check the licenses does ignore -NC because it’s not Open-Source. Which is what I see everywhere and almost everyone is doing. Which is what you’d expect if most people really think -NC isn’t Open-Source.

            And the problem here isn’t just that you answered with yet another super weak / pointless argument : you also ignored all my answers to your other arguments, and did not acknowledge that your previous arguments were pointed out to be incorrect ( or at the minimum acknowledge you didn’t agree with the counter-arguments I gave ). You do this all the time. I don’t know how we can have a discution and get to the truth here if all you do is just ignore my answers, and just spew new, weaker and weaker arguments in series … At some point I’m just going to give up. And that’s sad. We really should get to the bottom of this …

          6. You are wrong again about this … ( and you completely ignored most of my arguments … thanks for that … )
            First you completely made up those definitions of both Free and Open-Source, they don’t match the generally accepted definitons.
            And second you are wrong about the differences between the two :
            Free and Open-Source both aim to grant the same basic freedoms.
            It’s just that Free is a social movement, and Open-Source is a development model ( simplifying a bit here ). But they both describe the same license type ( with just a few very minor exceptions ), and both garantee the same freedoms.

            It *is* a yes or no matter. Limiting commercial use makes it not be Open-Source.

          7. OMG, what are you doing? I just answered your statement about “a few isolated internet commenters”. You make a whole religious blasphemy out of this single point.

            One thing is sure: answering all your statements is entirely moot. For each argument brought up you invent half a dozen twisted counter-arguments, so this never ends. Religious beliefs can’t be fighted.

          8. @Traumflug : Yes, you did answer. And I pointed out that your reasoning in your answer is invalid. Your argument is irrelevant to the conversation.
            You don’t like having many arguments, so let me make this very simple : I’m saying that the generally accepted definition of OS is one that requires allowing commercial use. You don’t agree. Your argument to demonstrate your position to that is “some people use -NC”. That doesn’t help your position ! It doesn’t mean anything about whether or not they think -NC is Open-Source or not.
            What is your answer to that ?

            There is no dogma or religion here, I’m sincerely trying to have a discution with you, but you keep sliding away from actual arguments …

          9. @Traumflug : It’s not that I can’t stop, it’s that I don’t want to. I want to get to the truth. That’s how progress is made. You on the other hand want this to stop, and I would suspect it’s because you don’t feel like you can sufficiently defend your position.
            You definitely don’t prove any point by giving up though …

  11. What I’m hearing is: “You can belong to our club if you follow our rules. If you do, we’ll ‘protect’ you; if you don’t, there will be ‘consequences’.”

    I’m sure the OSHWA has good intentions but you have to admit it sounds like the mafia telling small shop owners to buy “protection”.

    I make open source hardware and software in my spare time, and so far, it’s cost me more money than it’s brought in. That’s okay, I’m doing it because I want to make the world a better place and gain a little bit of “15 minutes of fame” from it. The best way to keep a project from being forked and stolen is to keep making improvements: Even if someone (or some company) figures they can make money with my invention, steals it and wipes my name from all source code (or worse, if they would pretend they are me), I don’t think it will fool many customers. And if it does, I will probably lose my motivation very quickly and stop updating the project, which will make it useless to those customers and therefore will quickly put an end to those clandestine sales.

    In a way, you could say that (at least in my case) I think my potential customers know me, and know where to get the documentation for my projects, and my reputation protects my projects from getting cloned by third parties. I don’t need a logo, or “protection” from some organization and I certainly don’t want to run the risk that they would want to fine me for not following some rule (which they can probably make up as they go). So I’ll just keep using the old logo, thankyouverymuch.

  12. It could be said that any device using a microcontroller, even a simple one can’t be fully open because the device manufacturer always controls the patents on the programming software. For example, the Microchip PIC series needs (usually) quite complex patented hardware to program them and the accompanying software is copyrighted. So you would have to prove that your implementation was not infringing in any way which would be very awkward in practice.

    In the case of a design using your own microcontroller built in silicon or some other material such as ZnSe or HTSCs to reduce component count which is IIRC feasible the exact design can be open but the second you use any common building blocks you could be infringing on some obscure patent held by the “Big Four”. I haven’t heard of anyone running into this issue yet but as DIY hardware becomes more complex its likely.
    To give you an idea one of the MRI companies actually had to refer to one of Tesla’s original patents circa 1906 when it patented their implementation of MgB2 in their scanner!

    1. They take that into account in the process.
      Pretty much everything people have complained about here regarding this process, is stuff they ( OSHWA ) saw coming, and integrated into the process.
      And the people who comment here think a problem exists just because they didn’t look into whether the problem was addressed or not.

      But you know … internet commenters and checking stuff don’t go very well together :)

      1. plenty of peoples concerns aren’t addressed at all, for some it was the very concept of calling something “open-source” while trying to close it down through self definition.

        1. This also bugs me quite a bit. They (try to) occupy a very general term, “open source”, then they (try to) kick out people which have a different idea of what “open” means. One of the OSHWA evangelists even coined the sentence “opening sources doesn’t mean it’s open source”.

          What should somebody do who happily shares her/his sources, makes them available for others to learn or even modify, but doesn’t want to be cheapo-cloned? Opening sources and calling it open source comes with a lot of flaming, as the comments here prove, so essentially the only choice is to stay closed source. Closed source, like not publishing anything. Opening sources and calling it closed source? Not really.

          A bit counterproductive for general society, isn’t it?

          1. « Opening sources and calling it open source comes with a lot of flaming, as the comments here prove, so essentially the only choice is to stay closed source. »


            That is not the only choice. You also have the choice of letting people see the source, but not calling it something it is not, by not calling it Open-Source.
            There is no problem with that, plenty of people do that and they do not suffer any adverse consequences. They are just honest about what they are doing.

    2. I know the point was something else, just nitpicking – Microchip PIC needs something like arduino and a bit of open-source code to load the binary into FLASH, programming specs are normally available. I have Arduino PIC programmer in my projects, I’ve seen other similar projects around the interwebz.

      But your point of non-openness of some project is still valid, though.

        1. … to everybody else: don’t count to much on this. I’ve spent a considerable part of my life to make open hardware, especially RepRap, a better and more effective place. Partial result of that is that Arthur stalks me in every place possible. That’s simply how life is.

          1. This is not stalking, I didn’t come here because you were here, we both are Hackaday readers, and comments are commonly used to have this sort of discution.
            This is not stalking, this is giving you a chance to have a reasonable discution. But every time I try, you do the same thing you are doing here : refusing to defend your arguments when they are challenged, changing the topic of the conversation whenever one of your arguments has been shown to be erroneous, and ultimately playing the victim. This time I’m stalking you, last time you felt “threatened” by me …

            This wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t on the other hand pretend to have a reasonable position.

            … to everybody else : just look at who is trying to have a reasoned conversation, advancing and refuting arguments, and at who is dodging arguments and playing the victim whenever they ran out of new arguments.

  13. http://www.oshwa.org/definition/

    Read the definition.
    See the giant list of endorsers at the bottom and the companies they represent.

    The point is not to control anything, but to create a “standard level of quality” of documentation in an Open Hardware project. Over the past years the Open Hardware logo was put on boards like stickers given away at a conference, which is good, but now it is time to clarify what that means exactly.

    If you were at the Open Hardware Summit, maybe you wouldn’t have so many worries about all the reasons why this may be bad.

  14. I see it as the perfect form of Bureaucracy:

    You can just ignore it and go about giving your stuff away without any repercussions, as you always did(or did not do).

    They have no power to enforce anything you are giving away, or how much you give away as long as you don’t use their “logo”.
    You can still provide useful ideas and hardware to the public good(the REAL important thing here).

    It will give your PCB more space for parts instead of “logos”.

    You can continue to use your own definition/interpretation of “open source” in “limited” or “all of it” when you give away your stuff and there is not a damned thing they or anyone can do about it.

    You can ignore every cite, rule and regulation they impose if you so chose, and do your own thing giving away your stuff without any fear of action from them.

    Nobody should ever tell you how you should give away your stuff, and this is no exception. They can “define” all they want, and it does not have to affect you or anyone else about how you choose to give away your stuff.

    It’s just perfect.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.