Showing an Ortur lasercutter control module in front of a screen. There's a serial terminal open on the screen, showing the "Ortur Laser Master 3" banner, and then a Grbl prompt.

Watch Out For Lasercutter Manufacturers Violating GPL

For companies that build equipment like CNC machines or lasercutters, it’s tempting to use open-source software in a lot of areas. After all, it’s stable, featureful, and has typically passed the test of time. But using open-source software is not always without attendant responsibilities. The GPL license requires that all third-party changes shipped to users are themselves open-sourced, with possibility for legal repercussions. But for that, someone has to step up and hold them accountable.

Here, the manufacturer under fire is Ortur. They ship laser engravers that quite obviously use the Grbl firmware, or a modified version thereof, so [Norbert] asked them for the source code. They replied that it was a “business secret”. He even wrote them a second time, and they refused. Step three, then, is making a video about it.

Unfortunately [Norbert] doesn’t have the resources to start international legal enforcement, so instead he suggests we should start talking openly about the manufacturers involved. This makes sense, since such publicity makes it way easier for a lawsuit eventually happen, and we’ve seen real consequences come to Samsung, Creality and Skype, among others.

Many of us have fought with laser cutters burdened by proprietary firmware, and while throwing the original board out is tempting, you do need to invest quite a bit more energy and money working around something that shouldn’t have been a problem. Instead, the manufacturers could do the right, and legal, thing in the first place. We should let them know that we require that of them.

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Oh Deere, Is That Right To Repair Resolution Troubling You?

Over the years a constant in stories covering the right to repair has come from an unexpected direction, the farming community. Their John Deer tractors, a stalwart of North American agriculture, have become difficult to repair due to their parts using DRM restricting their use to authorised Deere agents. We’ve covered farmers using dubious software tools to do the job themselves, we’ve seen more than one legal challenge, and it’s reported that the price of a used Deere has suffered as farmers abandon their allegiance to newer green and yellow machines. Now comes news of a new front in the battle, as a socially responsible investment company has the tractor giant scrambling to block their shareholder motion on the matter.

Deere have not been slow in their fight-back against the threat of right-to-repair legislation and their becoming its unwilling poster-child, with CTO Jahmy Hindman going on record stating that 98% of repairs to Deere machinery can be done by the farmer themself (PDF, page 5) without need for a Deere agent. The question posed by supporters of the shareholder action is that given the substantial risk to investors of attracting a right-to-repair backlash, why would they run such a risk for the only 2% of repairs that remain? We’d be interested to know how Deere arrived at that figure, because given the relatively trivial nature of some of the examples we’ve seen it sounds far-fetched.

It’s beyond a doubt that Deere makes high-quality agricultural machinery that many farmers, including at least one Hackaday scribe, have used to raise a whole heap of crops. The kind of generational brand loyalty they have among their customers simply can’t be bought by clever marketing, it’s been built up over a century and a half. As spectators to its willful unpicking through this misguided use of their repair operation we hope that something like this shareholder move has the desired effect of bringing it to a close. After all, it won’t simply be of benefit to those who wish to repair their tractor, it might just rescue their now-damaged brand before it’s too late.

Curious about previous coverage on this ongoing story? This article from last year will give context.

Header image: Nheyob / CC BY-SA 4.0

1700 Regulatory Approvals Revoked In South Korea

For the first time since its inception, the Korea Communications Commission this week revoked the regulatory approvals of 1,696 telecommunications devices from 378 companies, both foreign and domestic. Those companies must recall unsold inventory from the shelves, and prove conformity of existing products already sold. In addition, the companies may not submit new applications for these items for one year. It’s not clear what would happen to already-sold equipment if the manufacturer is unable to prove conformity as requested — perhaps a recall? Caught up in this are CCTV products, networking equipment, Bluetooth speakers, and drones from companies like Huawei, DJI, and even Samsung.

The heart of the issue are what’s known as Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) between countries to officially recognize of each other’s certification testing laboratories (or Conformity Assessment Bodies, CAB, in the lingo of the industry). Currently ten countries (USA, Canada, Mexico, UK, Israel, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, and Australia), the 27 member states of the EU, Taiwan and Hong Kong all have MRAs with each other. Based on these MRAs, a Korean manufacturer could have a product tested by a laboratory in Israel, for example, and all would be kosher with the KCC.

At the center of attention is the Bay Area Compliance Laboratories (BACL), established in 1996 and headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. BACL has laboratories all over the world (USA, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and mainland China). Except for those in mainland China, all BACL laboratories are acceptable per the MRAs. The KCC received a tip last year that some compliance test reports for some products might be defective.

A six-month investigation in cooperation with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) resulted in the announcement this week. Korean companies, 378 of them to be exact, had submitted test reports from BACL Sunnyvale which appeared to be appropriate. But on further investigation, it was learned that the actual testing was done by BACL laboratories in mainland China and only the reports were prepared in Sunnyvale.

It’s not clear whether these companies were knowingly playing fast and loose with the rules, whether BACL was complicit, if it was just a misunderstanding of the intricacies of the regulations and MRAs, or a combination of all three. Regardless, the KCC said that intent doesn’t matter according the their rules. It also has not been suggested that the products themselves are problematic, nor has anyone suggested that BACL’s Chinese laboratories performed slipshod work — rather, the KCC says it has no choice but to proceed with the revocation based on the applicable laws.

Raspberry Pi And Raspberry Pi Spy: This Is How Trademark SNAFUs Should Be Handled

In the eight years or so since the Raspberry Pi first landed as tangible hardware, we’ve all dealt with the Pi folks whether as customers or through their many online support and outreach activities. They’ve provided our community with the seed that led to an explosion of inexpensive Linux-capable single board computers, while their own offerings have powered so many of the projects we have featured here. Their heart lies in their educational remit, but they have also become an indispensable part of our community.

The statement from the Pi Foundation’s Philip Colligan.

Thus it was a surprise when [Raspberry Pi Spy], a long-time commentator on all things Pi, received a legal notice from the Raspberry Pi Foundation that their use of the Raspberry Pi name contravened the acceptable use guidelines and demanding that all content be removed and the domains be handed over. Some consternation ensued, before Pi foundation boss [Philip Colligan] released a statement retracting the original letter and explaining that the incident was the result of an over-zealous legal adviser and that the Foundation has no wish to undermine the Pi community.

All’s well that ends well, but what just happened? In the first instance, it’s natural for any organisation to wish to protect their brand, and there would be plenty of unscrupulous entities ready to sell fake Pi products were the Foundation not active in asserting their rights. In this case it seems that it was the use of the full Raspberry Pi trademark in a domain name that triggered the letter and not the fair-use blogging about the Pi products. We can see that however much we might wish otherwise it was not without legal merit. There have been numerous cybersquatting cases heard since the creation of the Web, and even though some of them have been on more dubious ground than others it remains a well-trodden path.

Where this story differs from so many others though is that the Pi Foundation acted with common sense in withdrawing the notice issued against a member of its community. It is inevitable that sometimes even the best of us can take regrettable paths by whatever means, and respect is earned by how such situations are resolved. We applaud the Pi folks for their swift action in this matter, we’d suggest to anyone that they take care when registering domain names, and we suspect that somewhere a legal adviser will be in the doghouse. But that all such incidents in our community could be resolved with such ease.

Patent Law And The Legality Of Making Something Similar

When [Erich Styger] recently got featured on Hackaday with his meta-clock project, he probably was not expecting to get featured again so soon, this time regarding a copyright claim on the ‘meta-clock’ design. This particular case ended with [Erich] removing the original blog article and associated PCB design files, leaving just the summaries, such as the original Hackaday article on the project.

Obviously, this raises the question of whether any of this is correct; if one sees a clock design, or other mechanisms that appeals and tries to replicate its looks and functioning in some fashion, is this automatically a breach of copyright? In the case of [Erich]’s project, one could argue that at first glance both devices look remarkably similar. One might also argue that this is rather unavoidable, considering the uncomplicated design of the original. Continue reading “Patent Law And The Legality Of Making Something Similar”

Justice For The Gatwick Two: The Final Chapter In The British Drone Panic Saga

At the end of 2018, a spate of drone sightings caused the temporary closure of London Gatwick Airport, and set in train a chain of events that were simultaneously baffling and comedic as the authorities struggled to keep up with both events and the ever widening gap in their knowledge of the subject.

One of the more inept actions of the Sussex Police was to respond by arresting the first local drone enthusiast they could find on Facebook, locking up a local couple for 36 hours and creating a media frenzy by announcing the apprehension of the villains before shamefacedly releasing them without charge.

In a final twist to the sorry saga, the couple have sued the force for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment, for which the cops have had to make a £200,000 ($250,117) payout including legal fees.

We reported extensively on the events surrounding the case 18 months ago, and then on a follow-up event at London Heathrow airport. The mass media at the time were full of the official line that drone hobbyists must be at fault, but then as now we were more interested in seeing some hard evidence. As we said then: Show us the drone.

So how has the new drone law progressed, since it was decided that Something Must Be Done? Enthusiasts have continued as before, and the multirotor community is as technically creative as ever. We were fortunate enough to host the Lets Drone Out podcast at MK Makerspace back in those halcyon days before the pandemic and see the state of the art in sub-250g craft, and with those and commercial offerings such as the DJI Mavic Mini all requiring no registration there is increasingly little need for an enthusiast to purchase a larger machine. The boost to the British drone industry we were promised has instead been a boost for the Chinese industry as we predicted, and of course we’re still waiting for the public inquiry into the whole mess. Something tells us Hell will freeze over first.

If you’d like the whole backstory in a convenient and entertaining video format, can we direct you to this talk at CCCamp 2019.

Thanks [Stuart Rogers] for the tip.

Keystone Kops header image: Mack Sennett Studios [Public domain].

No, The Nintendo Leak Won’t Help Emulator Developers, And Here’s Why

If you haven’t heard from other websites yet, earlier this year a leak of various Nintendo intellectual properties surfaced on the Internet. This included prototype software dating back to the Game Boy, as well as Verilog files for systems up to the Nintendo 64, GameCube and Wii. This leak seems to have originated from a breach in the BroadOn servers, a small hardware company Nintendo had contracted to make, among other things, the China-only iQue Player.

So, that’s the gist of it out of the way, but what does it all mean? What is the iQue Player? Surely now that a company’s goodies are out in the open, enthusiasts can make use of it and improve their projects, right? Well, no. A lot of things prevent that, and there’s more than enough precedent for it that, to the emulation scene, this was just another Tuesday.

Continue reading “No, The Nintendo Leak Won’t Help Emulator Developers, And Here’s Why”