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Offline 0xFFFF

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Open Source licenses...
« on: April 07, 2013, 11:05:50 pm »
Hello Everyone!

Can anyone tell me what I need to do when specifying a specific open source license for hardware and software?
Currently I'm at the point where I have created a PCB design and I'm about to send it off. Before I do so, I'd like to specify an open source license.
I want anyone to feel free to improve upon, tweak, customize, hack my work as long as they still give credit but I don't want any of my work to be used in a closed source design.
What should I stamp on my PCB (as far as an open source license goes)?
Do I need to sign any dotted lines anywhere?

TIA
 

Offline alexanderhiam

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2013, 03:40:55 am »
Here's a list of a few open hardware licenses: http://www.ohwr.org/licenses. I've been using the CERN OHL myself. It has a pretty clear set of instructions on how to apply it: http://www.ohwr.org/documents/88.
 

Offline 0xFFFF

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2013, 05:11:47 am »
Thanks alexanderhiam :)

Can you tell me why you picked CERN OHL?

Whenever I read this stuff I usually have a brain fart  :o. I hate legal mumbo jumbo.

Just noticed 'Open Source Hardware Explained - EEVblog #195' - watching now...
 

Offline mswhin63

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2013, 10:54:38 am »
Whenever I read this stuff I usually have a brain fart  :o.

I love the okka euphemisms.  :-+
.
 

Offline alexanderhiam

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2013, 06:13:03 pm »
Yup, great video.

A large part of the reason I like the CERN license is that it's designed specifically for hardware. It's really not all that different from Creative Commons in theory, but CC was really not designed for hardware, and there's a number of grey areas when using it.

For example, if you put CC BY-SA (attribution share-alike) on your PCB as well as on your documentation, it's not really clear whether they're under the same license or licensed separately. Someone could redistribute your PCB design with their own documentation, that might be completely wrong, and you would have a hard time trying to argue it. Firmware and software can be similarly confusing.

CERN, on the other hand, is explicit in the fact that it applies to the hardware design and the documentation, but not to any firmware or software. When you apply the CERN OHL, your design files, changelog and documentation (usage and assembly instructions, etc.) become a single entity.

The fact that it doesn't apply to firmware could also be seen as a problem, I suppose, because I believe you could technically have an open source board that runs proprietary firmware. I see it as a good thing myself, as I think there's enough differences between hardware and software that a single license really shouldn't apply to both, and there's a lot of great free/open software licenses to choose from.

Another good feature of the CERN license is that it specifies certain requirements for the level and quality of your documentation, which I like because it forces me to keep on top of it  ;D
 

Offline free_electron

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2013, 08:47:42 pm »
I want anyone to feel free to improve upon, tweak, customize, hack my work as long as they still give credit but I don't want any of my work to be used in a closed source design.

i don't think that is enforcable...

Let's say you make a system made of an input capacitor , followed by an lm741 in unity gain and a 10k output resistor. And you make a board for that. And you apply open source licence. call this an AC coupled buffer amplifier.

i see your schematic. a bit later i make a board containing just the 741 in unity gain and some connectors. i do not publish schematics , i remove the part numbers and cover the entire block in black goop...

how are you going to sue me ?

you will have to prove i saw your schematic.... good luck on that.
you also will have to prove my circuit was built on , or a mod of yours. ( a 741 in unity gain has been around for 50 years.)
you will also have to buy one of my products, strip it out of its epoxy compound and etch the chip top off to verify it is indeed a 741...

let's say i improve your circuit by swapping the 741 for a way better opamp... add some decoupling , a power regulator and some protection circuitry. i also change cap value so the bandwidth is different

how are you going to prove i built this on top of your design ?

with software this licence trick works as you have the sourcecode and can copy ad-literam large blocks. Also in software the binary fingerprint ( compiled code) may turn out to be identical. this is much harder with hardware.

with hardware ? not so. there is only so many ways to make an ac coupled buffer amplifier... and you can't claim copyright over something that has been done before ...

let's take a harder case :
you build an alarm clock in TTL chips with 7 segment displays.
i take that idea, implement it in an FGPA and add pwm dimming of the LED displays and i don't disclose how it's done..  Howe are you going to prove i copied your design and improved it... let's say i copied your schematic literally and synthesized it in an FPGA. the synthesis and mapping will obfuscate it so it becomes undetectable. and even if you detect it in some way : the logic netlist will be completely different from your ttl chip netlist... the function is the same , the physical implementation not...
if you want to protect the functionality you need a patent. if you want to protect the implementation : that is moot as there is so many ways to skin a cat ...

The fact you threw it out there makes it fair game.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2013, 08:52:58 pm by free_electron »
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Offline sub

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2013, 09:45:52 am »
I want anyone to feel free to improve upon, tweak, customize, hack my work as long as they still give credit but I don't want any of my work to be used in a closed source design.

i don't think that is enforcable...

Let's say you make a system made of an input capacitor , followed by an lm741 in unity gain and a 10k output resistor. And you make a board for that. And you apply open source licence. call this an AC coupled buffer amplifier.

i see your schematic. a bit later i make a board containing just the 741 in unity gain and some connectors. i do not publish schematics , i remove the part numbers and cover the entire block in black goop...

how are you going to sue me ?

you will have to prove i saw your schematic.... good luck on that.
you also will have to prove my circuit was built on , or a mod of yours. ( a 741 in unity gain has been around for 50 years.)
you will also have to buy one of my products, strip it out of its epoxy compound and etch the chip top off to verify it is indeed a 741...

let's say i improve your circuit by swapping the 741 for a way better opamp... add some decoupling , a power regulator and some protection circuitry. i also change cap value so the bandwidth is different

how are you going to prove i built this on top of your design ?

with software this licence trick works as you have the sourcecode and can copy ad-literam large blocks. Also in software the binary fingerprint ( compiled code) may turn out to be identical. this is much harder with hardware.

with hardware ? not so. there is only so many ways to make an ac coupled buffer amplifier... and you can't claim copyright over something that has been done before ...

let's take a harder case :
you build an alarm clock in TTL chips with 7 segment displays.
i take that idea, implement it in an FGPA and add pwm dimming of the LED displays and i don't disclose how it's done..  Howe are you going to prove i copied your design and improved it... let's say i copied your schematic literally and synthesized it in an FPGA. the synthesis and mapping will obfuscate it so it becomes undetectable. and even if you detect it in some way : the logic netlist will be completely different from your ttl chip netlist... the function is the same , the physical implementation not...
if you want to protect the functionality you need a patent. if you want to protect the implementation : that is moot as there is so many ways to skin a cat ...

The fact you threw it out there makes it fair game.

Copyright doesn't cover the circuit itself, so everything you said is legal.  Only the documents themselves (including schematic files, layout files, etc.) are covered.  I'm not sure about the layout itself; quite possibly not, since there is a separate and less restrictive regime for IC layouts, and it could be claimed that the layout itself is purely functional (excepting art and whatnot that is put on the board).
 

Offline free_electron

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2013, 03:59:54 pm »
 Ah, the documents. Ok. So what if i make a new blank document , , open yours, select all copy , click on mine , paste ... Twice, because i make a two channel version. I add some decoupling of my own and an led an power switch. And i move the wires a bit.

What now ? Prove i copied yours ... You did not draw those symbols.. You pulled them out of standard library... It is also no longer a binary copy ... (Which would the case if you copied a program.. )

So exactly on what are you claiming copyright ?
So far we eliminated
- the principle (that would need a patent),
- the implementation (i change part values and opamp type. Game over )
- the document . Copy paste leaves no binary footprint. Since i moved the wires the coordinate numbers in the file are different so it will not be visible there either. The file does not store where a certain element came from. Like part placed from library blah , block pasted from clipboard, source this document made by xyz <- now you would catch me. But there is no record in the file. The file itself is just a bunch of references to lines that get interpreted and drawn on screen. If i move a wire a bit the numbers change and the files are bo longer binary comparable.. So proof becomes impossible.

What if i print out your pdf of your schematic you made in eagle and redraw it in altium... The fileformat is completely different... It may be the exact same schematic.. You still can't block me from making this closed source. You have no authority over my file. I may have come to the same solution fully independently.

My point is the following : this kind if licencing stuff is bullshit. If you release a schematic out there it is fair game. You cannot dictate what people can and cannot do with the design itself. The pdf file for example you can make view only ( block printing). That would be asserting your copyright. Circumventing that is illegal and contestable in court.

Analogy : you can prevent me legally from making a copy of a book, you can not prevent me legally from aplying or using the information i obtained from reading the book.

By reading your schematic i gain information.

I don't understand this obsession of having to attach 'ownership' to an open schematic. If you make something and want to share , throw it out there and let people do what they want with it. Don't restrict them. Any form of restriction is co tradictory to the notion of 'open'
Or , keep it to yourself.

All this licencing stuff is simply a vanity plate. I made this, look at me, wheee , you can build on it , mod it tweak it , but you need to credit me... I also want my 2 minutes of fame from your work...

If i release something 'open' i don't care what happens to it and if i get credit for it. If it's a piece of sourcecode there will be a 'written originally by ...' In it and that's it. You can add your 'modified by...' below that... The reason there is simple : if anyone finds it and has questions, they know who to try to get a hold of.  If it's a pcb or schematic i don't even bother.  I may put a 'drawn by' on the sheet, but those things get lost anyway.

So, in my view these 'licences' for something that is 'open' are moot...
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Offline Nirios

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2013, 04:18:48 pm »
So, in my view these 'licences' for something that is 'open' are moot...

Because it sounds cool and geeky.   ;D
 

Offline free_electron

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2013, 05:08:25 pm »
Pff. Back in the day (sheesh, grampa is talking now) we labeled it as 'public domain'. The unwritten understanding was : do whatever you want to it but never remove any names already in the comment field You can add your own. And if you take it closed source you must display the names somewhere.

I booted an old HPuX machine a few days ago. Some network linraries in There are public domain. Hp does not provide source, but during boot the text 'network library written by blabla, public domain' flies by.

Or a text network library based on work by blabla.

And that's it. You do as you please with it. Take it closed source, sell it .. Whatever.

Particular schematics is hard.
You make a board with a non inverting opamp amplifier. You cant assert copyright to that .. That circuit was around before you were born....
You use 1k 10k and an lm741.

You don't own the design of the 741. Nothing prevents a chipmaker to integrate two resistors and sell it as a 10x gain amplifier. Especially if that chipmaker was the original designer of the 741...
I take your 1k 10k and make it 4k7 47k... What are you going to do ?

I read a bit the cern documentation ... One clause is particularly funny.. Documents must be made available in a public format..
 Like pdf ... Bwahaaaa. The most closed source format there is is. And as for cad they want what ? Eagle ? Since when is that the 'open sauce' standard. Its a paid program and as closed source as can be.
Code and text copyright is si ple. Its a sequence of characters or binary patterns...

Schematics ? Not so... Its like applying copyright to a painting. Look i painted a smiling lady , called it mona lisa and apply copyright to it. To what ? If i paint a smiling lady that is not yours. Even if i model mine after yours. If i take a photo of your picture you cant even claim copyright infringement.

If i publish abook with photographs of your painting you can't claim copyright infringement !

But, if you copy my book and sell it i can sue you.
If i sell my painting as a mona lisa then you can sue me.
You can't sue me for making a painting of a painting though....

I think there is no framework to define what is copying of a schematic. Apart from a block that is patented.
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Offline alexanderhiam

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2013, 05:59:45 pm »
Quote
And as for cad they want what ? Eagle ?
Where'd you see that? I have't noticed anything about preferring proprietary EDA software, that would be a huge flaw.

Quote
If you make something and want to share , throw it out there and let people do what they want with it. Don't restrict them. Any form of restriction is co tradictory to the notion of 'open'
When you put it that way, sure, but that's not the point of an open source license. It's about protecting people's right to continue to use/revise/redistribute the product. The goal, as I see it, is to help prevent the (albeit rare) situation where a company makes a similar product after you, grabs a patent, then sues you.

Yes, it's a lot easier with software, and I don't think there's any open hardware license that does what something like GPL does for software, and I don't know that there ever could or should be exactly. But I do think it's more than just a vanity plate.
 

Offline free_electron

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2013, 07:20:52 pm »
When you put it that way, sure, but that's not the point of an open source license. It's about protecting people's right to continue to use/revise/redistribute the product. The goal, as I see it, is to help prevent the (albeit rare) situation where a company makes a similar product after you, grabs a patent, then sues you.

if i put it in public domain they can do whatever they want with it.
as for the making a similar product after me and patenting that then suing : can't do that. The Prior Art clause in patent law eliminates that.

anyway , my irk is with the original posters comment ' i don't want anyone taking my idea closed source...'. As far as i can tell there is no way blocking that if you throw your design out there.
Once you release something is 'Open' it;s like the proverbial can of worms. Once open, that's it ...

You could argue for a PCB layout : i shuffle parts around, make a different formfactor , add a ground plane  , make it a 4 layer board , go from thru-hole to SMD ... i did not modify the schematic in any way. Now you can argue i cloned your design...
But once i start modifying parts values , parts types ( like better grade opamps ) , add circuitry of my own... replace a block in your system by a block i made ... and then re-hash the pcb layout...
now you are in trouble proving this was built on your design...
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Offline marshallh

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2013, 09:37:29 pm »
Good work stands on its own regardless of license.. License is only going to affect the honest respectful people that would give you credit anyway without an explicit license.
You instantly run the risk of someone jacking your work just by putting it out there. It's like putting a "no guns" sign on a college classroom. Boy, that sure stopped the VA tech shooter, didn't it?

It won't do jack diddly-squat to prevent the chinese from cloning it.

Putting a fancy bullshit OSHW license on something won't make a crappy circuit/pcb better. It's still crap.
In my experience most of the people that are the most vocal about open sores hardware also suck the most at it. With a few exceptions.

My 2 cents: instead of agonizing over useless licenses spend that time furthering your own knowledge to build better things
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Offline free_electron

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2013, 12:55:36 am »
Haha. The stupidity of such licences allows you to do the following :

I made an LED blink i release this under 'Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported ' CC licence


The following code is released under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported  Creative Commons licence :
written by vincent himpe
while 1
  port1 = 1
  sleep 1
  port1 = 0
  sleep 1
wend

there you go. a blinky led for a microcontroller. you can build on it but must attribute the code to me , share your mods , and you can't sell it.

i'll take it a bit further :

code to make a pin high:
The following code is released under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported  Creative Commons licence :
written by vincent himpe
port1.0 = 1

code to make a pin low:
The following code is released under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported  Creative Commons licence :
written by vincent himpe
port1.0 = 0


There you go. Now any program in the world that makes a pin high , or low by writing a '1' ot '0' to it is subject to my license... since nobody applied one to it , even though this code may have been around for a long time, i claim i invented this myself and applied the license myself to it.
so if i catch any program out there setting a pin high or low , not attributing the code to me , and not releasing the sourcecode and/or mods i will sue ...

shall i post a bank account now ? i'm moving to fiji ...
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Offline Len

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2013, 02:00:39 am »
so if i catch any program out there setting a pin high or low , not attributing the code to me , and not releasing the sourcecode and/or mods i will sue ....
You are confusing patents and copyright. You can't copyright an idea. To sue for copyright infringement you have to prove that someone copied the actual code that you wrote. Which would be next to impossible because your code snippet is so short & simple that someone could come up with exactly the same thing by coincidence.
 

Offline free_electron

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2013, 03:45:01 pm »
Exactly !
The snippet is too short...

So where do you draw the line ?  10 lines of code ? 20 lines of code ? 50 lines of code ? 1000 lines of code ?
How about a schematic ? 10 components ? 30 components ? 1000 components ?

Before you answer , consider this :

This is subject to a patent from Sun microsystems...
Code: [Select]
int v;           // we want to find the absolute value of v
unsigned int r;  // the result goes here
int const mask = v >> sizeof(int) * CHAR_BIT - 1;
r = (v ^ mask) - mask;

Two lines of code.... And two definition lines...

Microsoft has a patent on 1 line of code .... Some bit manipulation operation that works only on x86 architecture and can be written in one line. Theor compilers generate that code. The object code is patented...

Stuff to think about.

I still consider all that open source lecence stuff nonsense. If you want to set it free , then do so. Release it to public domain. Done. All the rest is simply vanity and restriction.
It's free but i want the credit.. It's free but you can't do this... If you imply restrictions then it is not free. Period.

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Offline Nirios

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #16 on: April 10, 2013, 05:15:30 pm »
This is subject to a patent from Sun microsystems...
Code: [Select]
int v;           // we want to find the absolute value of v
unsigned int r;  // the result goes here
int const mask = v >> sizeof(int) * CHAR_BIT - 1;
r = (v ^ mask) - mask;

Those are perfect examples of why we need patent reform.  The current system is broken.  Software  and business practices should be exempt from patents.
 

Offline andyturk

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2013, 03:38:56 am »
I still consider all that open source lecence stuff nonsense. If you want to set it free , then do so. Release it to public domain. Done. All the rest is simply vanity and restriction.
Bingo!
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #18 on: April 13, 2013, 04:51:48 am »
I still consider all that open source lecence stuff nonsense. If you want to set it free , then do so. Release it to public domain. Done. All the rest is simply vanity and restriction.
It's free but i want the credit.. It's free but you can't do this... If you imply restrictions then it is not free. Period.

I want to make all my Flickr photos public domain, but they only offer the various Creative Commons license options  :--
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #19 on: April 13, 2013, 04:57:38 am »
I've been noticing a trend recently toward simple public domain for OSWH projects.


 

Offline 0xFFFF

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #20 on: April 15, 2013, 05:25:09 am »
 :phew: Thanks people. I really didn't expect this sort of response but it helped clear everything up.
I'm not going to bother with a license.
At the end of the day I don't really care what people do with what I've made public. I just prefer it if people gave credit where credit is due and don't use it in closed source projects. I'll re-word this and put in to the files I upload.
Thanks for your help.
 

Offline kshitij

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #21 on: April 16, 2013, 12:39:47 am »
I still consider all that open source license stuff nonsense. If you want to set it free , then do so. Release it to public domain. Done. All the rest is simply vanity and restriction.
It's free but i want the credit.. It's free but you can't do this... If you imply restrictions then it is not free. Period.
1000 x  :-+ . Make it either public domain or don't.
Licensing should always have been simple, I agree. The original open source licenses were actually intended to prevent university research from evolving into a proprietary product (this was about 20 yrs ago).  That was their only objective, for the most part. The gist of these licenses was that if you used some source code created using these licenses, you had to make the resulting source code public too.
People (a.k.a, large corporations) started circumventing them by statically linking a few libraries (created using 'free' software source code), with their own code, and making their code proprietary, since it did not use any open source code directly, but was statically linked with libraries created from open source software. And that was when licensing became a complex issue, and all these license types started to emerge. And even then, companies still found their way around them. "Static linking considered open source? No problem. Use a dynamically linked library from an interpreted language, rather than a directly compiled one  >:D"
so if i catch any program out there setting a pin high or low , not attributing the code to me , and not releasing the sourcecode and/or mods i will sue ...
And I claim that you simply modified my original code and sue you. ;) To be awarded a patent, you need to prove genuineness or a significant improvement/modification over the original. Good luck proving how you modified my 'original' code. :-DD
It doesn't matter if I didn't patent my code, as long as I have 'conclusive' evidence to prove my code/schematic existed before yours, and that you had access to it.
I want anyone to feel free to improve upon, tweak, customize, hack my work as long as they still give credit but I don't want any of my work to be used in a closed source design.
That makes up for a very nice license in itself, 0xFFFF.  ;D ;D
 

Offline c4757p

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #22 on: April 16, 2013, 12:46:33 am »
I want anyone to feel free to improve upon, tweak, customize, hack my work as long as they still give credit but I don't want any of my work to be used in a closed source design.
That makes up for a very nice license in itself, 0xFFFF.  ;D ;D

Yeah, I rather like it. Feels a bit like this.
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Offline westfw

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #23 on: April 16, 2013, 01:12:18 am »
Quote
I'm not going to bother with a license.
At the end of the day I don't really care what people do with what I've made public.
Quote
Then you should say that somewhere.  Documents are copyrighted (at least in the US) when you create them, whether or not you include a copyright notice.  Not having ANYTHING about re-use terms leaves the status of the publication in limbo, and people that you perhaps wished to allow to use the code may not be able to.  (For example, when someone went to make Arduino into a "package" for some popular unix distribution, it was a roadblock that many of the example sketchs, like "blink.pde", did not explicitly include a compatible license.)

Quote
This is subject to a patent from Sun microsystems...
Code: [Select]
int v;           // we want to find the absolute value of v
unsigned int r;  // the result goes here
int const mask = v >> sizeof(int) * CHAR_BIT - 1;
r = (v ^ mask) - mask;

http://www.google.com/patents/US6073150  "Apparatus for directing a parallel processing computing device to form an absolute value of a signed value"
So exactly why is this not an appropriate algorithm to receive a patent?  Just because it's short?  It does something useful (calculate absolute value without branching), was aimed somewhat at hardware/systems, and doesn't look particularly "obvious" to me.   Likewise the LZW Compression patents, which got a lot of flack when the originators started making noise about not liking the degree to which the algorithms had proliferated in software (and the really annoying licensing arrangements for V.42bis.  Three separate licenses!!)  But it sure seems to me like the original patent was well deserved.

Does ANYTHING protect a "design"?  Back when you could get the schematics for most electronics gear just by purchasing the maintenance manuals, what prevented companies from massive copying?
 

Offline Poe

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Re: Open Source licenses...
« Reply #24 on: May 23, 2013, 08:25:34 pm »
Some comments here have me confused as to the discussion.

These licenses provide copyright protection of hardware documentation and possibly board artwork?  As I understand it, copyright only protects the "work" (image) itself.  Not the intentional function or symbolic arrangement, right? 

So for example, if I protected my open source opamp circuit with a license, anyone could still make/modify/include/sell that same exact physical circuit.  What they couldn't do is distribute a photocopy of my documentation.  Specifically my schematic or part of my schematic. The license has nothing to do with patents or how the circuit functions, right?

I understand copyright software protection considering the governments' ridiculous stance on it....but for hardware?  Why?  Is it to protect the board artwork?  Does it protect that, considering it's functional?

How does a copyright license protect a hardware project, especially if there's no firmware? 

If someone is going to take your work and release it "closed-source", that means they are not releasing your 'protected' documentation.  So even if you were using a license, they would not be in violation anyway.

Is there a legal defense reason to release with a license?  That is, could your own documentation could be (mis)used to force you into court?

Wish this thread had more answers as I am genuinely curious.  What is the point of hardware licenses?


 


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