what's your definition of 'open source hardware'?

  • A recent post on the Make blog about my controller project, the Stribe, was modified by the Editor and the words "open source" were stricken-out. The explanation: "...Not actually open source it seems, non-commercial license..."

    Also, there is a comment: "...the stribe is very cool but unfortunately it isnt in fact open source due to the 'non-commercial' license it uses. see http://www.ladyada.net/library/openhardware/license.html for more detail..."

    I've carefully read through the linked article, and it basically says that if you include the "Non-Commercial" caveat in your license, this means your hardware isn't open source. Though interesting and well-argued, the article seems to me to be the opinion of one person rather than an authoritative definition of open source hardware.

    On my website (http://www.stribe.org) I post complete documentation, including circuit diagrams, plans, drawings, software code, firmware code, photos, videos, detailed how-to-build instructions, bill of materials, etc. To protect myself from someone simply manufacturing my boards and selling them, I licensed the overall project under "Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License" (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/), and the firmware under the GNU General Public License. This is the same scheme used by a variety of open source hardware projects, including monome.

    Should protecting my work from unfair exploitation disqualify it as open source? In my mind the spirit of open source is to encourage new development, enhancement, experimentation, and learning... not to allow unfettered production and sale of another's work without permission.

    I certainly wouldn't have been inspired to make the Stribe if the monome hadn't been so thoroughly documented and open. And without the monome being so open, it would never have occurred to me to open my own work so others could learn from it and build their own devices. I worry that such a re-definition of the term "open source hardware" might discourage people from opening their projects, stifling this community and others like it.

    I'm very interested to hear what people think.

  • sounds like the make homies are being a little knit picky....
    i mean open source is "technically" whatever the dictionary definition is.....
    but they dont have to be boners....
    if a dude makes something and shares everything about that process and allows you to change what you will with his design......that is by far open source....
    the only reason i mention "boners" is because it seems going back to a post and editing it on a technicality is doing too much....
    it says "non-commercial" but it also says "share alike"!
    it sounds like what my mama would call smart-assing back in the day.....
    either way.....
    the monome AND stribe were in maker faire......
    dont see why you'd burn bridges now.......

  • i believe that what you are doing is opensource no matter what the dictionary states.

    the argument against 'non-commercial' use in the mentioned article focuses on the fact that it stops COMPANIES from having a positive input to your project. I think that in terms of small-scale DIY hardware, corporate involvement is probably the opposite of what we are trying to foster in this area.

    my thought is that whilst software like mysql and firefox are most benefited by large user involvement due to the long hours of programming required, hardware development is better aided by organisation where there is a central meeting point and not where development is scattered.

    unlike the aforementioned software, monome and stribe are both very much niche markets and therefore it is true that it would be unlikely for a medium to large corporation to attempt to develop it. we should as a result, not focus on what the licensing model does in the corporate realm, but rather how it impacts the individuals who choose to be a part of this community. we need to be encouraging participation within the project, and it is apparent that by using non-commercial licensing it discourages the individual with dreams of becoming the great monome under-cutter. instead encouraging that person to be part of the community itself rather than creating an offshoot which distracts the movement.

    for these reason i believe what you are doing is as beneficial as can be in our niche hardware and accompanying software situation. we are not creating for mass consumption, but for community involvement, and i believe the current methods being used (including donations to developers) are the ideal approach.

    if being 'anti-corporate greed' is not 'open-source' then i don't want it anyway.

  • i agree. although saying something isn't technically "open source" isn't the same as saying "it's evil" or "it sucks", it's a bit of a slap in the face when all you want to do is make sure no one rips you off.

  • hey josh, i'm pretty much with you and enjoi.

    according to ladyada, there appear to be three implicit tiers pertaining to the "openness" of one's source.

    at one extreme, you have closed source. itunes, internet explorer, your home stereo.

    on the other extreme, you have open source a la linux.

    on the software side of the gray space, you have something like max/msp which allows programmers to open up their source to other programmers, but requires the programming interface (aka an engineering tool).

    on the hardware side of the gray space, you have the notion that non-commercial licensing impedes the project's openness.

    the biggest flaw with ladyada's assessment of the situation, though, is that she fails to address the single most crucial characteristic about hardware: it cannot be freely duplicated like data can be. if this point is not entirely obvious, think of this example. you make a song with your monome, and send the track to a friend with a text file indicating an open source license allowing the friend to do whatever they please with the sound file. both you and your friend now have the track. this is how software works. scenario two, you send your monome to a friend. now your friend has a monome and you don't (owch!). this is how hardware works. the consequence of this characteristic is that producing and using hardware each have their own set of requirements. to produce hardware, you need tools and components. to use hardware you need, well.. the hardware! software is unique in that developers and end users must each have a computer. platform might make a slight difference, but i do not think that the platform dependency issue relates to the physical uniqueness of hardware.

    the OSI was written with software in mind, and criteria 8 and 10 (license should be product non-specific and technologically neutral, respectively) seem quite ill-suited towards hardware. with those in mind, i think even the monome would not be considered open source. the 40h design calls for an ATmega32. go ahead and stick a freescale s12 in there and see what it does. is that technologically neutral? sure, you could design a monome out of TTL and put it over TCP/IP and make it send /press 0 0 1 messages. it may conform to the protocol and be considered derivative use, but both are technologically independent and non-neutral.

    thinking about technology brings up another relevant point about how "open source" max/msp is, but i'll save it for later.

    the final and most important thing to realize is that licenses were all written by people. people as creatures are generally pretty inclined to talk and listen and participate in all sorts of social activities like negotiations and agreements. if someone makes their schematics and gerb files and source code available, but puts non-commercial in the licensing, and you want to use it for something commercial, give the person a call! talk about it. be rational individuals, and don't try to exploit anyone or anyone's work.

    or maybe we develop a new open hardware standard that follows the Qt dual licensing model (http://trolltech.com/about/open-source-business-model) and call it Open Coarse and get all nit-picky when people use our term to describe something that fits 99% into our bucket but isn't officially certified.

  • lol at that last paragraph...
    i also agree on the soft / hard distinction you so well articulated.

  • The Arduino is a great example of true open source hardware, anyone can copy, modify use and sell the hardware. The fact that it's a versatile microcontroller dev board that can be used for 100000's of projects makes it very suitable for this open source licence. I recently read that the estimated number of Arduinos (and compatibles) reached 100.000 units, so there's a very large global user base and market which can easily be served by multiple commercial organizations.

    These numbers are totally different for hardware such as the monome, the Stribe and Aurora. These projects serve a niche market segment, due to technical skills required to get things up and running. I think it's no more than reasonable that the makers protect their projects by using a non-commercial license to prevent unlimited distribution of their circuits, but they do allow anyone to hack, modify and tinker with the open source files of the project for personal / community use.

    A monome can be made from many different parts that people can source themselves, but the unique parts (alu faceplate, wooden box, silicone keypads) are hard to find, so I think that also contributes to the success of this device, as people want to get their hands on the real thing. The Arduinome is a good example of a non-commercial spin-off made from parts that people sourced themselves.

    I think it's time for a true non-commercial open hardware licence that fits these types of projects and benefits both the community and the inventors. There's always room for a business partnership or license deal if there's serious interest from a company that wants to use the open source files commercially or redistribute locally.

    Edit: Josh, did you get the e-mail I sent you?

  • I'm a tea snob.

    Technically, all tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. So, when someone who is sipping their Celestial Seasons calls what they're drinking 'tea', it is my obligation to inform them the correct term is 'herbal infusion'

    I can do this because, in the strictest technical sense, I'm right.
    It also makes me a douchebag.

    The term open source is used to describe the SPIRIT of projects like the stribe. With the term comes an expectation of openness, firmware, schematics, community involvement, grass-roots development, etc... That is what the stribe is. End of story.

    A strict interpretation of 'open source' to REQUIRE the inclusion of unlimited commercial use benefits whom, exactly?


  • It might be semantics, but it seems that preventing commercial use _does_ in fact drop you out of the Open Source™ bracket. At least according to the people who own the trademark...


    With that being said, why be concerned that you're not being called Open Source in the article. Why try and be something you aren't. I don't think it's a bad thing to not be open source - I think it's a great thing to be non commercial. Maybe a new phrase needs to be coined for "non commercial open source".

  • @edison: Hopefully I'm not burning any bridges with the Make folks; I think Make is totally awesome and a true boon to society. I really just want to get a dialog going - I think it's an important conversation to have.

    Great thoughts on this so far and much food for thought.

    My initial instinct was to change my licensing to a CC 2.5 or one of the newer open hardware non-Non-commercial licenses (TAPR, OHL), in order to ensure I could continue to call my project open source... but then I had second thoughts. I do want to have some control over what happens with my work, however unlikely the potential for exploitation may seem. My motivation for being open source is not some sort of marketing jive, I really do want to contribute to the community, "pay it forward" so to speak.

    What I'm really looking for is a term that encompasses these ideals, but doesn't require me to relinquish all my rights. Since the term open source is already in common use and seems to more than adequately describe these ideals, maybe it makes more sense to push back a bit at those who want to define the term more narrowly. Maybe instead coin a new term like "open open source" or "open source plus" or something, to indicate a product that will be released immediately into the public domain.

    from xndr: "There's always room for a business partnership or license deal if there's serious interest from a company that wants to use the open source files commercially or redistribute locally."

    Exactly. Making a product completely open, e.g. not restricting any use, including commercial, seems like a sort of extra altruism that ought to be a personal decision, not something imposed from without, just to stay in the club. The commercial decision can be made on a case-by-case basis, when and if a commercial entity approaches you and asks for permission.

    @jpsykes: My point in indicating non-commercial is not to avoid having my hardware become commercial. On the contrary: I'm all for it, I just don't want someone else to do it without me, unless we discuss it first and there's a good reason (e.g. they make a significant improvement or change). And there's nothing to prevent someone from making a stribe of their own design and bringing it to market (besides ethical considerations). I just don't want them grabbing my gerbers and running to the factory.

  • The word hoover is often used for vacuum cleaners, yet many aren't Hoovers™.

    The word open source is often used for projects with open source code, yet many aren't Open Source™.

    I think being open source with a lower case O and S is still a great thing.

  • Aye, there's the rub! Just drop the capital O and S! :)

  • I personally think that Open Source™ overreaches. If I was picking a new name for what that is, I'd say Free Source™.

    To me, Open doesn't require that you give up all rights. Free does.

  • Interesting article in Wired: http://www.wired.com/techbiz/startups/magazine/16-11/ff_openmanufacturing?currentPage=all#

  • oh shit...
    sorry ultra...
    i meant Make was kinda burning bridges...
    i think that you ARE open source in every aspect of the word....
    and the stribe RULES
    i just didnt understand why make would get weird about it....
    sorry if im not followable (usually)haha

  • i expect this post to drift around, forgive me:

    the fundamental difference between open source hardware and software is the fact that hardware requires tangible (from the earth) resources, which always requires money. this may seem obvious, but it changes the dynamic of distribution substantially.

    wherever production and distribution occur there are usually several tiers of middle-men. all of those companies or individuals make a living based on the consumption of a product, but the actual consumer may rarely acknowledge that they even exist. this is to say, some designer is actually responsible for the existence of the product, but this same designer (in addition to whoever is to invest to have said thing made) is responsible for creating business for many other people, particularly distributors (who simply stock the product and make the largest cut.)

    with small companies or individuals trying to make a living producing hardware, open sourcing rearranges this landscape. in a small company profit is made fundamentally by reducing middle-men such as distributors. if sources are openly available, this company could easily be replicated by numerous people, all producing the product and distributing it themselves.

    of course, each duplicate company probably wouldn't set up their own support system or host their own communities-- they'd simply cash in on the production and sales of hardware. this obviously stresses the original designers' support load and more importantly creates competition for sales.

    furthermore, there is not only one way of using resources to manufacture a product. there are certainly cheaper methods which abuse the planet, abuse human life, and disregard the best interests of local economies.

    this creates competition with an identical product, manufactured with lower standards. i know this sounds paranoid--luckily we're not paranoid but simply pragmatic. we have not arrived at our decision out of speculation-- these situations have come up over and over very much in reality.

    so why bother with open-source at all? over the last several years the benefits have become very clear. a continually growing collection of applications, inspiring similar hardware projects (stribe), encouraging compatible devices (arduinome), various ports (iphone, lemur, korg), but most importantly instilling a positive foundation of sharing in the community. we attempted to set an example.

    does non-commercial hinder any of our goals? not that we have seen so far. as someone here said before, there is always flexibility to simply contact us.

    i'd also like to point out-- like patents, a license is only as good as an ability to defend it. this relies on the availability and willingness to spend money on an often broken legal system. in this sense a license is more a statement of the requested use of our sources. honoring this "request" relies heavily on the respect established by the community.

    in closing, i see the suggestion of joshs' project as disparagingly "not open-source" as counter-productive and a bit self-righteous. clearly the stribe has incredibly positive goals. the fact that the designer would like to preserve the ability to possibly recoup costs or make a living off his work is perfectly respectable and does not detract from the project in any way.

  • i apologize for that incredibly convoluted post.

    one last thought-- it's worth examining the parallels in the music world. the pcb design vs. the manufactured pcb compared to music files on a pressed cd. then consider the production and distribution of each physical product and how it affects the musician/designer respectively.

  • Yes, its a shame that the tone of the Make article sounds like it's taking a piss on your project because of the perfectly understandable non-commercial caveat. Based on the excerpts you posted, I smell dogmatism. Your project is certainly open, and created in the spirit of sharing and mutual benefit.

    Perhaps you could write to the Make guys and explain how the article made you feel (that might sound terribly doctor phil-ish, but if you're interested in being on good terms with those guys, it might help).

  • It's a good thing there's a conversation about this subject as we're somewhat pioneering in the grey area of open source hardware. I have also been looking for an appropriate license for the stuff I'm currently working on and I feel like there isn't a license that's really 100% suitable... Very much the same problem that Ultra encountered with the Make folks... Maybe it's time for a new licensing model that covers our problems and would be something between the OHL and the non-commercial creative commons license...

    Maybe introduction of "openness" levels would bring more clarification..
    So to distinguish between firmware, software/drivers, cad drawings/technical documents, schematics, pcb layouts (gerbers), pcb source files (eagle/kicad). And the allowed usage: non commercial, for personal use, for community use, commercial, public domain, etc..

    Any thoughts about that?

  • As ladyada is on Make's advisory board or whatever, I'm not sure Josh's grievances will have any traction.

  • hiya, pt from MAKE here - josh emailed me just now so i'm going to pop in and try and join this great discussion.

    first i should say that my comment on the project was just to clarify for our readers, when folks see "open source hardware" they assume they could take the schematics, source, everything and if they wanted - and manufacture for profit. since that's exactly *not* what josh wanted, i added it to the post that another author put on the site.

    so i hope you can tell that it wasn't "pissing on the project" or anything even remotely close to that. to be even more clear - i've been a huge fan of this project, josh has been at my place in nyc, i've covered the project a lot, stribe was at maker faire, it's a fantastic project from a cool maker. there was a stribe fan club, i'd be in it.

    i'm bummed that a lot of people piled on and assumed the worst, that josh didn't email me or chat at maker faire, that's how it goes - stuff online gets intense --- but i'm glad i can hopefully clear up some stuff now.

    the problem that many brought up is that this is all very new. i'm not sure what open source hardware is going to evolve to be. i don't think anyone knows - there isn't a linus or stallman of osh either (maybe that's a good thing?) - we are all figuring it out as we go along.

    i've tried to catalog what everyone is collectively calling "open source hardware" in a series of articles, and it's evolving. i think that a lot of makers are using creative commons and i personally think that's the way a lot of projects are going to be released because a lot of makers want to get everything out there, but they're worried about someone doing a knock-off and making tons of money. that hasn't happened yet, but that's the thing most folks tell me they're worried about.


    if you look at the linux world, anyone can make money with linux and that basically changed the world of operating systems, programming, etc. some makers have done that with hardware, chumby, adafruit, arduino...

    "open hardware" might be a better term if some or most of the project is released, but at some point as a community we should try and figure out a way to say exactly what you can and can't do. josh did and i posted that, but someone how got spanked for clarity.

    when folks talk about open source, they usually refer to this:

    ==No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor==
    The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

    microsoft can release "open" projects, but they're not going to call vista "open source software" since everyone for the most part agrees "open source software" means you can make money from it.

    but hardware is different in a few ways, and here we are.

    at make we certainly don't have 100% open source everything, we follow what the makers want and ask for - there are many many levels of "open". the stribe is an open project, but the maker said don't make money from it, we have makers that make kits that say the same thing, there are also copyrights and trademarks on things (arduino for example is trademarked by the arduino folks). it's not "evil" or "bad" like some have suggested, it's what the maker wants, there's no club or certification for open source hardware, it's all new and i'd only like to see more projects like the stribe.

    i'll check this thread and hopefully can answer any questions or comment more, great discussion!


    phillip torrone
    senior editor
    MAKE magazine

  • Hi phillip

    My 'pissing on' comment was in response to this sentence from Limor "...the stribe is very cool but unfortunately it isn't in fact open source due to the 'non-commercial' license it uses."

    Without the 'unfortunately', that tone of that sentence would have been completely different. I'm sure you can appreciate the importance of details like this.

    I took care to qualify my pissing comment with "it sounds like", but it was probably still unfairly strong.

    Thanks for clarifying your position here.

  • hi, ultrajosh just email me (& phil) and i made an account so i can answer any questions.

    first off, let me introduce myself: im limor (aka ladyada) i run a small company out of my living room where i design & sell 'open source hardware' electronics and kits. you can see them at www.ladyada.net/make and adafruit.com . Everything i design is completely open source - firmware, software, hardware schematics and layout, cad files. anyone can build them for any reason whatsoever (including selling them on ebay, and those sellers have my blessing)

    i'm very open to dialogue and discussion but i do want to make it 100% clear that i have never ever disparaged the stribe or ultrajosh. in fact josh emailed phil & i earlier this year when he was interested in selling the stribe and came over to our workshop where we talked about the project, how he could make a living from it, and i offered to help him in his endeavor no-strings-attached. in fact i think the stribe is f'ing awesome & told him so.

    i also want to make it 100% clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with people publishing their projects as not fully Open Source. in fact its still incredibly cool that projects are published and i support those projects (& sometimes build them for my own pure electronixy pleasure). such projects help the community and have a strong following. if you have a project and you want to make to make absolutely sure that people don't make money on it without asking, then open source is probably not for you. If you want to make sure that your project is not manufactured in China, or India, or New Mexico then open source is probably not for you

    On the other hand, I dont think that Open Source is a tool of evil corporate greed. its possible to have a balance!

    The question as to what open source means when talking about hardware is still kinda up in the air. Its a very tough question because as some people mentioned, with software theres just code. with hardware there are about 6 layers. each layer can be open or closed. when i talk about open source hardware i look at it like the legal system in the US where new decisions are based on old ones. Open source software, for example, is very well defined as the links above note. I'm also basing my definition on other work such as TAPR, Teuthis, Chumby, Arduino and BugLabs. Not everyone is in 100% agreement but we are trying to work towards a common definition. how many layers must be open for it to be OSH? what is a good way to communicate this?

    basically this entire thread is about phrasing. that means it is easy to resolve! my argument is you oughtnt say "Open source music controller" unless the whole thing is, in fact, open source.

    For example:
    On the stribe page, josh says "monome 40h is an open project" and "I attempted wherever possible to use entirely free or open source tools" & "The idea is to keep it open so others will continue to improve the design"
    he never says its fully open source. so thats all 100% true. monome is an open project. he does use free (expresspcb) & open source tools (arduino).

    So in conclusion!
    IMHO, saying "open music controller" is totally OK. Saying "open firmware music controller" is also also totally OK. saying "fully published and documented for non-commercial use" is totally ok. however, saying "open source music controller" i would argue, is not completely true.

    let me know what you think, i am open to any & all discussion

    adafruit industries

  • @bitbutter, i hear ya - comments on blogs and forums rarely come across perfectly. this is a great thread and it's now part of open source hardware (open hardware?) history!

    since a lot of folks are still here, i'd like to know how they think it would be best to make it clear that a hardware project is "open" but you simply can't sell it.

    i don't think "open source hardware" will work since it has baggage from software, there's already confusion. but some projects are "open source hardware" and you can actually sell them (adafruit, arduino, chumby).

    "open hardware" might be closer, but a lot of folks release everything but the hardware parts (firmware is open source, but pcbs are not avail for example).

    creative commons is a used a lot, but "creative commons hardware" sounds odd. cc hardware, common hardware really don't tell you much.

    maybe projects are "open hardware" and the maker says... "open hardware" with a "creative commons license" or... "open hardware" with an "open source license"...

    it's specific, it's "open" and it says exactly how open it is.


    i'm not worried about all of us, we all talk to each other on sites, email, maker faires - but there will be a lot of new people coming in as "open hardware" continues to succeed, it's likely "define" or "be defined" by someone else if there isn't some type of agreement?


  • Thanks for chiming-in Phillip - it's great to see this discussed and it is definitely super-relevant to most if not all here. I didn't ping you directly right away 'cause I wasn't quite sure how to feel about it and wanted some input. Clearly this is a lava-hot topic! :) When I saw there was some (mostly good-humored) bashing going on I figured it was only fair to clue you in.

    Edit: One idea I discussed with some friends was coining a new term that means "open" but doesn't fail the "open source" test. I didn't intentionally word my stuff as indicated above (in ladyada's post), but I agree the semantic distinction between "open" and "open source" does clarify things a bit. My only concern is that use of the term "open" might seem sort of like marketing jive. Like "dude, we're totally open" and the "initiated" will roll their eyes thinking, "everyone says that these days."

  • Scenario 1:
    Josh: "Here is the stribe, it is open source!"
    Response: 99.99% of the people immediately understand: hackable, open, community, etc... .01% read the fine print and realize they won't be able to exploit it for commercial gain.

    Scenario 2:
    Josh: "Here is the stribe, it is TAPR!"
    Response: BLANK STARE

    Phillip, you're correct of course, but it feels overly pedantic to make an example of Josh's humble project at this time. Maybe later, when awareness of what open source hardware is and is not becomes more well defined, this sort of response is warranted. But right now, when matters are admittedly nebulous and you yourself admit a better term is needed, it seems unnecessary and petty.

  • @pt: thanks for clarifying, and welcome to the community.

    i think we may be confusing words once again. i know for a fact that commercial entities *use* our devices, for profit. musicians use our devices to make a living, scientists are using them in research, and they're being used in education. the contrast to linux in this sense is a bit off-- we're not preventing use of the device itself.

    by non-commercial i mean (and most people mean) don't use our source files for commercial ends-- meaning please don't start your own humble business redistributing ours or others' work.

    your assertion that nobody has made tons of money creating a knock-off of open hardware is true as far as i know, but you underestimate how many extraordinarily long e-mail discussions i've had reasoning people away from the decision to do as much. this is not an unreal problem or simply paranoia.

    but most shockingly, i'm certainly hoping you misspoke when describing MAKE readers' interest in open source hardware partially driven by a desire to manufacture for profit. i thought MAKERs were all about building things for themselves. i thought MAKERs would be more respectful of the ethic of openness and not simply leech other designers' good will to make some money.

    again, the difference again between hardware and software-- you can't really sell open source software that you didn't write. anyone can download it at no cost. you may be able to sucker someone into paying you $5 if you burn it to a DVD first. hardware is different. anyone can take source files and convert them into a useful object that has value beyond the sum of its components. some people may think that selling others' work is ok-- i think it's antisocial at best. this is why we need to clarify our licensing. we're not trying to prevent commercial use, we're simply hoping to prevent profiteering.

  • apologies for sounding so self-obsessed-- as josh got advice from me while realizing the stribe, monome shares a lot of the same problems surrounding licensing/etc.

    but we also share the positive benefits!

  • you make good points. these are questions i deal with too as i would of course like to keep doing what i do :)

    perhaps, lets look at it this way:
    stribe uses arduino. arduino is fully open source & there is no constraint on commercial use. if it was not, then ultrajosh could not sell the stribe (which contains and uses arduino IP) without prior authorization/licensing/etc from arduino. the beauty of the arduino project is that he doesn't have to do that. he can go forth and be creative in his own way knowing that as long as he fulfills the requirements of the open source license it is totally cool with the arduino folks. that means its more affordable for his end users and makes it more likely that he can live off of his labors

    also, there is definitely profit to be made from open source software. for example, there are now laptops that ship with linux & firefox (in fact i was just checking out the asus eee yesterday). the laptop makers dont pay for the software but they get a free operating system. that means their margins are a lot higher than if they installed windows. while they are not directly selling the software they are certainly making more money because of it!

    edit: i unfortunately have to log off, but in conclusion id like to say: open sourcing projects is not for everyone. if you dont want it to be manufactured by others freely then a non-commercial license is for you. its -your project- and you have the right to do with it as you wish! i am pro-documentation and pro-license-choice and i fully support more electronics hacking for all. i also like chocolate ice cream. if you have further questions complaints or comments, send me an email -> limor AT ladyada DOTTY net

  • @tehn - no problem. i'll address your comments the best i can....

    more than just "Makers" read MAKE, there are a couple million "readers" on the MAKE blog, that's where this post was and what this thread is about. there are more and more new people that read all of what we do. wired's article about arduino, etc... for example. i'm not worried about all of us, we all talk to each other on sites, email, maker faires - but there will be a lot of new people coming in as "open hardware" continues to succeed, it's likely "define" or "be defined" by someone else if we collectively can't.

    i've only seen the "good" of what makers do, they work with each other, they form businesses, they respect each other and as josh can tell you personally, they share everything with each other so others can do the same.

    i think it's reasonable to assume there is confusion out there when wired does an article about arduino and it says how anyone can fab them and both the stribe and arduino is called "open source hardware". it's also reasonable to say that people will compare open source software to open source hardware. you and i know the differences, but others don't.

    i think we're both saying the same thing.... "this is why we need to clarify our licensing. we're not trying to prevent commercial use, we're simply hoping to prevent profiteering".

    another problem as josh said, everyone calls everything "open". it's a marketing term which is annoying when we all hear about the latest "open" project that's actually nothing more than a buzz word.

    so... we're back to figuring out what to call this and how to be clear on how to protect our works on how each maker wants.


    i think the stribe is an "open hardware project" with a "non-commercial manufacturing license". josh, what do you think about that? it's weird to pick your project a defining example, but hey - why not :)

  • @ladyada: re firefox and linux, very good points! though don't manufacturers pass a majority of the OS discount to the end buyer to encourage sales? i unfortunately can't find a clear correlation to end-product open hardware, however.

    regarding the arduino in the stribe-- very good point as well. it's clear that non-commercial is inhibiting in some situations, particularly in products which facilitate other projects.

    @pt: good points. i agree, this is now about branding and education.

  • ugh i made a mistake with posting/editing, repeated here for your happy fun
    i unfortunately have to log off, but in conclusion id like to say: open sourcing projects is not for everyone. if you dont want it to be manufactured by others freely then a non-commercial license is for you. its -your project- and you have the right to do with it as you wish! i am pro-documentation and pro-license-choice and i fully support more electronics hacking for all. i also like chocolate ice cream. if you have further questions complaints or comments, send me an email -> limor AT ladyada DOTTY net

    thanks for all your insight & i apologize if i offended josh. hopefully he understands that i meant no ill will and accepts my apology for any offense.


  • @all - i just posted this up on MAKE too so there might be some new folks here to chime in. great stuff here, thanks to everyone here who made this happen!

    i'll keep this on my reader for a bit but also feel free to email me as new things come up.

  • Limor - No worries - I did get a bit miffed at first but that's only natural I suppose. The web is funny that way. I definitely understand where you're coming from, and I do think it's an issue of definition, education, and usage. The terminology should be clarified for the masses, which projects are "open for all purposes" and which are "open for learning and infinite warranty".

  • So I shared a booth with Josh, demonstrating how to do Surface Mount Soldering, this weekend at Maker Faire and think his project rocks!

    Alot of what I do is based on uControllers and other nifty projects and base alot of info gathered on the internet. Many of these sources are open source or provided by the manufacturer.

    I personally find the "Non-Commercial"license very limiting. How many of you out that have had a truly "revolutionary" idea? Most stuff out there and in this community is "

  • Too build on some of the recent comments:

    I was inspired to register and post by tehn's comment:
    but most shockingly, i'm certainly hoping you misspoke when describing MAKE readers' interest in open source hardware partially driven by a desire to manufacture for profit. i thought MAKERs were all about building things for themselves. i thought MAKERs would be more respectful of the ethic of openness and not simply leech other designers' good will to make some money.

    You have a very narrow view of commercial use here: There is _a_lot_ more to commercial use than simple generic "leech" like reproduction. limor points out the reuse portion: Using Arduino as an example again, the Boarduino is a variant on the Arduino, slightly altering the features and produced by others. If Arduino used the non-commercial option then this would require authorization / licensing. Using hardware as some part of a company's operations is commercial use as well. I can't design a cool monitoring control panel for our servers if commercial use is prohibited.

    I definitely agree that a creator has a right to open up a project only as far as they want, but I tend to go with:
    If you control the project to such a degree that you control the rights to profit from the project, it is less than fully open.

    Yes, going Open Source is a big leap, and I really get why people wouldn't want to make the jump.

    Change the players a little bit and see how it feels with a fictional scenario:
    A large company releases some hardware. They allow hobbyists and educators to disassemble the hardware if they agree to a license, but require payment from any corporate entity or artist using the hardware for profit.
    The schematics are shared, according to their license, but the legal team tracks down companies and artists using the product and requires licensing agreements and fees.

    Would you consider this open? In what ways should this company advertise the product as open?

    These are my humble opinions; I haven't thought deeply about this and I'm open to persuasion, but there is a reason I try to get Open Source software to use on our small companies machines, and I would do the same with hardware.


  • many good points here, but again we're mired in language.

    some of us are simply trying to put forth that non-commercial means please don't sell reproductions. there is no restriction on use. my "narrow" view is based on running one of the few operations attempting to design/manufacture/distribute devices which could be considered open hardware.

    the "legal team tracking down people" scenario is perhaps overreaching. how about, if someone started selling hundreds of kits based on our design, would we e-mail them? certainly. on the other hand, our forum hosts numerous group-buys for variants on our devices, and we encourage this.

  • @tehn - just wanted to say thanks for hosting this discussion and making a great product.

    I agree on the mired in language bit. I do think that a good compromise needs to be made though between open source and outright stealing of a design. What that language is exactly I don't know.

    For the record I have never infringed upon a "non-commercial" license nor do I intend to. I have also found that most folks with non-commercial licencse are more than willing to work with commercial folks (I have been on both sides). Most often they want to make sure that you give them credit/recognition for the work they have done. Whether that be monetary or just a "shout-out" on the pcb I think it is only fair.

  • arggggg, this forum logged me out and i lost my post! it was so much more eloquently put than my previous one!

    here is my embittered attempt at reproduction:

    Hey! make people! i would have loved to discuss this last night but had no internet =(

    first, for pt and limor (who is/isn't with us anymore?), hi, i'm kevin from the blog thread.

    @limor, your point about the josh using the arduino in the stribe and then selling the stribe is entirely convincing, and quite frankly, something i hadn't even considered when typing my previous post in this thread. thanks for that.

    @pt, i'm not sure what phone you were talking about in your response over on the make blog, but now i am curious.

    so what do we do about this terminology issue? it seems to me that "open source hardware" will continue to be defined as it is now, requiring no limitations on commercial use, a la the arduino.

    it seems that while we have to come up with a new term to describe thoroughly documented and open projects which contain this non-commercial use caveat, we also have to address what types of commercial use are ok.

    i think the term "open design" might be good, if properly defined, but then we'd have to agree on a definition. personally, i think the term should not consider commercial use in its definition, thus making an open source hardware project fit in the subset of open design.

    i am still mad at the forum for logging me out as i tried to post this the first time.... grumble grumble..

  • @soundcyst: I also experienced lost posts a couple of times, since then I always neurotically do CTRL+A, CTRL+C before hitting the submit button on any form or forum...

    About the Arduino inside the Stribe, that's a good point, but there's a substantial difference between the two products. Arduino is middleware, it's not a finished product, it needs firmware, peripheral electronics and an enclosure. The Stribe is more or less a finished product.

    The great thing about the Arduino is that it made microcontroller projects and physical computing available to the masses. Like Ultra I'm also using bits of the Arduino design inside my projects and without it I would be far from where I am today.

    Arduino itself was inspired by the Wiring board, which is also an OPEN project. The software is open source (Processing/Arduino IDE) but the hardware is "an open project", as far as I know only the schematics are released >> http://wiring.org.co/download/WiringIOboard.pdf

    The difference between the two platforms is obvious, the Arduino is much more popular and many Arduino compatible projects have been made.

    I think the "OPEN" word is a bit confusing, if you say open project, people assume open source. Like Stretta mentioned earlier, people will know what you're talking about, so a new licensing term such as OHL might be confusing. On the other hand the creative commons license works really well for digital files: when you see the CC mark or read the Creative Commons text, you know that there might be some restrictions. Clicking the link will bring you to their website and all abbreviations are clearly explained (CC-BY-SA-NC, etc)

    Following their example I would really like to see something similar for open (source) hardware:

    This work is licensed under a OHL-NC-BY-SA license.

    So you say Open Hardware Licence, the attributes define how "open" the work really is, but people will understand it's "open" in one way or another...

  • Wow! This has really turned into quite a thought-provoking discussion, with tons of valid points on all sides.

    A minor point of clarification: the Stribe kit includes a retail version of the Arduino MINI that I purchase fully assembled, and then re-sell along with the Stribe kit; I don't incorporate Arduino's design onto my board and reproduce it, and it isn't even actually a required part. Arduino is one possible logic board that can be used with the Stribe; granted it's the most convenient, since I've developed firmware for it. But I include a prototyping area next to the Arduino location, whose purpose is to allow other microcontroller or add-on circuits. In fact, at least one Stribe exists that doesn't use an Arduino at all, but instead uses a PIC microcontroller and different firmware.

    So I've been thinking about the "inclusion of an open source device scuttles my commercial project" argument posted above in a few different places. I'm trying to make sense of it:

    1) The inclusion of a "closed source non-commercial" ATMEGA chip doesn't limit monome (or SEGA or whomever) from selling devices that contain them. That is, even though it's got the MOST restrictive "non-commercial" license of all, in the sense that you' can't legally produce an ATMEGA168 clone, it still can be included freely in other devices. In fact, that's what it's for.

    2) The inclusion of an "open source non-commercial" device SHOULD be similar, but maybe it isn't. The "non-commercial" means you can't make clones of the device, similar to above. But does it also mean if you want to use it IN your own device you have to get permission first? If so this apparently "scuttles" the project from a "not-invented-here" point of view. But is that what the license really says? Or does it just mean I can't clone the included device without permission? Couldn't you just buy lots of already manufactured devices from the original maker and use them any way you like?

    3) Arduino is in fact "open source yes-commercial", so this seems like it would be an advantage to commercial users, since you wouldn't even need to buy assembled Arduinos, or get permission, you could just make your own and include them in the product worry-free.

    I'm beginning to see the problem with this "in-between" type of open source. I think maybe a new license that clarifies the meaning of "use" is in order.

    Edit: I think Stretta's point about recognizability of the term "open source" is at the heart of a lot of the emotion here. Being open source has a lot of weight in terms of identity and the value system it implies, and being asked to step down from that identity and re-align with a "lesser" term is a bit painful. It's also confusing. For instance, both monome and stribe and a variety of other projects are listed as examples on Wikipedia's page about Open Source Hardware. How many of them would remain if this narrower definition is applied? Maybe the solution is not to re-define existing projects as "not-quite open source" but to redefine the term open source to be broader, rather than narrower. This would be similar to Creative Commons itself, which as an over-arching concept is inclusive, then you drill dwn to different flavors of CC. You don't kick things out of CC because they don't meet the narrowest definition. So something like OSH-NC-SA-A (as suggested above) would mean Open Source Hardware Non-Commercial Share-Alike Attribution. Still open source, but a particular flavor. So I'd probably make the Stribe: OSH-NC-A.


  • I'm in with either a real CC hardware license or OSH license with attributes such as NC/BY/SA, etc...

    One note: the OSH-NC-A is actually OSH-NC-BY, as BY stands for attribution...

    @Josh (Ultra): Why not use a JOSH license for the Stribe? That would recursively stand for "Josh's Open Stribe Hardware" 8-)

    Edit: The non-commercial (not for resale) and non-commercial (cannot be used for any commercial activity) is also a bit confusing. See http://vvvv.org/tiki-index.php?page=licensing for an example... I'm not sure how this would work with hardware though, but since it's been mentioned above I included it..

  • Just jumping into this thread... Jeez, almost exactly a year late.

    As a small-business kit maker along the lines of Adafruit, I'd like to chime in. We've produced closed-source kits for over 15 years, and have been including and contributing to a few open-source kits to our line up in the last few years.

    As mentioned previously as a possibility, we've approached individuals that have CC-NC-BY licenses and negotiated a license, so that _does_ work. BUT, we've also still stuck by the originators of a CC-BY license and negotiated a royalty license to design a product to have the "official stamp of approval" by the designer, even though we aren't obliged to. But by _getting_ designer involvement, we're receiving much better feedback in designing our version by learning why the original did or didn't include XYZ idea/feature. (BTW, other than the Freeduino, these are "work-in-progress" and not on the website yet)

    In short, where we could produce something CC-BY, we still want open involvement. It's simply a better idea. In cases where it's a CC-NC-BY, we still have got licensing, so that's a bit of a non-issue too.

    The only point that I don't think that has been brought up yet is that by its nature, the NC clause makes us manufacturers think twice/three times before even looking at a NC project.

    "Good" you may think. "Keep yer dirty money-grubbing hands offa my project!" (smiley).

    But that also means that your project loses out on:
    1) having professional expertise look at and contribute to your project
    2) have your project gain more exposure
    3) getting (possibly) less-expensive hardware sourced for your project
    4) having more sets out in the world. (How long has that last batch of 400 been sold out?)
    5) having end-user support. The official kits have "No Support / No returns". I can understand why, but a commercial venture often gives this support.

    The main reason I'm here looking at the Monome project is that a local college made us aware of it, and asked us to investigate it to bring in so they could have a local source.

    That all said, my search continues for a distribution channel (really - I've only been at it for about 45 minutes now). It looks like the official channel is sold out. I see Seeed studios and SparkFun has some of the hardware, but obviously I can't buy a complete Monome bundles from them.

    Dave Hrynkiw
    www.solarbotics.com / www.hvwtech.com

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