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Hardware Licensing

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Idea

The Public Labs community is in the middle of dropping the Creative Commons Share-alike license in favor of the CERN Open Hardware License 1.1" This is something we should consider. Jeffrey Warren sums up the reasons why we should care on the Public Labs site:

CC-BY-SA is great for content, in that it protects users of the content from legal action by the original author, while protecting the author's right to be attributed and to reuse in turn any additions by later contributors ... However, hardware designs need additional protections for both author ('inventor') and "downstream" users -- specifically, protection against patents -- the risk that others, whether inside PLOTS or not, will attempt to patent your work and challenge our open approach to community technology development.

http://publiclaboratory.org/wiki/open-hardware-licensing

Louis's picture

My takeaway from reading the public labs site was the following:

CC Share-alike has one potential weakness: people who build off of someone's original plans can see their work become closed, since the originator of the project can change his or her mind about licensing. Thus, it forces people downstream to make their development open while also allowing the potential for someone upstream to patent and close the project, taking downstream developers contributions along with it. CERN does not allow an upstream developer to do so.

My final position is that CERN is the way to go. Part of me did feel like the ability to close a project was a useful tool to use against corporations who may want to use my work, but further thought made me realize that that benefit would probably not pan out in practice.

If a corporation really wanted to keep using my work, they no doubt will find a way; waging patent war is not the battle I intend on fighting. Meanwhile, the cost of this ability is that downstream users are at-risk of my whims and this discourages their own development of a tool that I originated. In short, the benefit of being able to fight a battle that I don't want to fight isn't worth the cost of discouraging collaboration.

R.J. Steinert's picture

If a corporation really wanted to keep using my work, they no doubt will find a way; waging patent war is not the battle I intend on fighting. Meanwhile, the cost of this ability is that downstream users are at-risk of my whims and this discourages their own development of a tool that I originated. In short, the benefit of being able to fight a battle that I don't want to fight isn't worth the cost of discouraging collaboration.

Well put!

Louis's picture

I came across this picture which I felt reinforced my reasoning above. The person in that picture obviously didn't have the alternative we do back in his time. I think Louis C.K. illustrates how artists today can create a business model today that circumvents the industry and one of the key features was the lack of DRM in his downloadable product. While that's not quite open-source, it's VERY progressive for the industry and makes a lot of customers happy since they feel like they are given the ownership they are entitled to when they buy something.

Anyway, I was just trying to illustrate my point of how important it is to pick your battles. By not caring about people pirating his product, Louis CK was able to cut out middle men, sell his product more cheaply, and make more money then he would have otherwise. Wins all around!

R.J. Steinert's picture

Try editing and saving that comment again. It should fix the links with the "Markdown Syntax and HTML" Text Format selected. More info over here -> http://dev.farmhack.gotpantheon.com/comment/39#comment-39

danpaluska's picture

i choose the public domain. it is to me the most sincere expression of openness and admission that all good ideas are old ideas. the simple reality is that once set into the wind, the seeds will do as they please! replicate mutate iterate.

danpaluska's picture

i choose the public domain. it is to me the most sincere expression of openness and admission that all good ideas are old ideas. the simple reality is that once set into the wind, the seeds will do as they please! replicate mutate iterate.

Louis's picture

@danpaluska

The main difference to me seems that public domain does not require downstream users to maintain the work under the same open license. In that way, the "iterate" part of your slogan fails.

I realize that my stance may seem contradictory since I stated that I didn't wish to enter legal battles over IP and I am effectively saying that one should have legal recourse should another mutate and patent one's work, but I think that the very existence of legal recourse should dissuade others from going closed with your R&D.

Also, imagine that someone mutate and patent my work, cutting off my own paths for future development?

danpaluska's picture

re: sharing imperative vs the protection imperative- does the addition of this lawyer legal speak actually protect the [idea/group problem solving practice] or does it simply keep the legal machinery in business?
RE: downstream patents -
1. they can only protect their particular branch and the source point can always support more branches.
2. amount of time and money it takes to get a patent (>$10K). very few companies would add that on top of a unprotectable public domain base.

practical or damn fool idealistic? not sure but public domain feels better.

either way, the logic eventually falls apart under close enuff inspeckshun... ;)

R.J. Steinert's picture

I haven't decided what I think yet but these two statements stand out to me.

From Louis...

Also, imagine that someone mutate and patent my work, cutting off my own paths for future development?

From Dan...

practical or damn fool idealistic? not sure but public domain feels better.

Since none of us are patent lawyers (yet :-P), feeling it out is perhaps the best we can do it seems. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in other communities. For now, as for dropping CC-BY-SA for CERN Open Hardware License 1.1 across the board, perhaps we don't have to do that and can instead state "CERN Open Hardware License 1.1" or "Public Domain" on the Wiki pages where we want it to apply. I could be wrong though and it's worth finding someone with enough knowledge on this topic to try and poke some holes in that idea.