Author Topic: Open Source Project Worries  (Read 9768 times)

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Offline PetaVolt

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Open Source Project Worries
« on: January 02, 2013, 05:06:30 am »
I recently made a triac controller with dimming and the whole bit board for putting 110 volt Christmas lights to music or whatever else.  My main concern is that in releasing it someone will attempt to build it and either electrocute them self or burn their house down.  Also when I designed the board I am almost sure I didn't leave enough space between the high voltage traces let alone routed notches.  Am I overly concerned?
 

Offline HardBoot

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2013, 05:34:24 am »
Well just have a schematic and parts list and don't bother with the PCB payout, anyone can make it themselves in 5 mins anyways and then it's their problem.
If you want a public schematic, just say it's not to code, not safe, etc. Or make it really safe. You're good either way.
 

Offline JuKu

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2013, 07:43:43 am »
If you want to share, label it to be what you say it really is: A good start for further development.
http://www.liteplacer.com - The Low Cost DIY Pick and Place Machine
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2013, 11:49:24 am »
I recently made a triac controller with dimming and the whole bit board for putting 110 volt Christmas lights to music or whatever else.  My main concern is that in releasing it someone will attempt to build it and either electrocute them self or burn their house down. 

Unless you intentionally designed it to be dangerous, and released it with malicious intent, you have nothing (legally) to worry about.

Quote
Also when I designed the board I am almost sure I didn't leave enough space between the high voltage traces let alone routed notches.

Then don't release the layout, or release it with a notice that you think the clearance is not enough, and recommend not to use as-is.

Today's paranoid driven culture about being sued if you breath wrong, has a lot to answer for!  :--

Dave.
 

Offline David_AVD

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2013, 12:33:44 pm »
Document it as what you built for yourself, not as a "hey everyone, you can make this too" project.
 

Offline ToBeFrank

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2013, 03:54:14 pm »
Every open source thing I've ever used comes with a license that says the original author is not liable and provides no warranty.
 

Offline bitwelder

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2013, 04:56:53 pm »
You can also put, both on the schematic and on the PCB layout, a very clear "Danger: Live Voltage" (or similar) warning, so that anybody handling that project is reminded to be careful.
 

Offline Short Circuit

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2013, 11:38:01 pm »
Why didn't you design it with sufficient clearances to start with ??? It's your own safety too...
 

Offline PetaVolt

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2013, 03:09:54 am »
Why didn't you design it with sufficient clearances to start with ??? It's your own safety too...

I wish I would have.

You can also put, both on the schematic and on the PCB layout, a very clear "Danger: Live Voltage" (or similar) warning, so that anybody handling that project is reminded to be careful.

Good idea, I think I will.

Every open source thing I've ever used comes with a license that says the original author is not liable and provides no warranty.

Any ideas where I could find a license as described?

Document it as what you built for yourself, not as a "hey everyone, you can make this too" project.

Good idea, I think I will just put the project out for the taking.

I recently made a triac controller with dimming and the whole bit board for putting 110 volt Christmas lights to music or whatever else.  My main concern is that in releasing it someone will attempt to build it and either electrocute them self or burn their house down. 

Unless you intentionally designed it to be dangerous, and released it with malicious intent, you have nothing (legally) to worry about.

Quote
Also when I designed the board I am almost sure I didn't leave enough space between the high voltage traces let alone routed notches.

Then don't release the layout, or release it with a notice that you think the clearance is not enough, and recommend not to use as-is.

Today's paranoid driven culture about being sued if you breath wrong, has a lot to answer for!  :--

Dave.

I think I will hold on to the board for a while until I get around to improving it.

Thanks for all of the help,
Spencer
« Last Edit: January 03, 2013, 03:28:38 am by PetaVolt »
 

Online AndyC_772

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2013, 07:59:13 am »
In some juristictions you *cannot* disclaim liability for death or injury.

Personally I wouldn't publish details on how to build any product that connects directly to the mains, regardless of whether or not I think it's correctly designed or meets any particular country's safety standards. There's always the risk that the person building your project is a litigious moron, and statistically there must be a few of those.

Online EEVblog

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2013, 08:19:46 am »
In some juristictions you *cannot* disclaim liability for death or injury.

I find that hard to believe, especially for something like technical information given in good faith.

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Personally I wouldn't publish details on how to build any product that connects directly to the mains, regardless of whether or not I think it's correctly designed or meets any particular country's safety standards. There's always the risk that the person building your project is a litigious moron, and statistically there must be a few of those.

What are they going to sue you for?
It's that kind of fear that stifles many industries :(

Dave.
 

Online AndyC_772

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2013, 08:39:24 am »
Dave

I don't profess to be a legal expert myself, but that's why I hired one to draw up T&C's for my design consultancy. He was quite adamant that any attempt to disclaim liability for death or injury could well be found to be invalid / unenforceable. You can insure yourself against such claims, of course, but only if you're making enough money out of the work to pay for cover. No good if you're giving your stuff away for free.

It may be, of course, that a person's legal obligations differ depending on whether information is posted for free as opposed to being developed on a commercial basis - but for the sake of a set of xmas lights I certainly wouldn't even consider it. Not for a millisecond.

Online EEVblog

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2013, 08:55:55 am »
I don't profess to be a legal expert myself, but that's why I hired one to draw up T&C's for my design consultancy. He was quite adamant that any attempt to disclaim liability for death or injury could well be found to be invalid / unenforceable.

That's because you are a professional consultant providing professional advice and/or product for a fee. A totally different ball game to releasing technical information onto the internet for free in good faith, in terms of insurance coverage. Providing a direct paid service to someone puts you directly into the insurance firing line. Publishing general technical information freely on the internet is at the opposite end of that.

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You can insure yourself against such claims, of course, but only if you're making enough money out of the work to pay for cover. No good if you're giving your stuff away for free.

You cannot insure yourself against personal legal liability. If you deliberately design something that kills or injures someone, then you are are still personally legally liable, and can still go to jail.
The main concern here is if someone kills themselves, in which case, you won't be sued for the usual crap, you'll be potentially up on manslaughter charges.
Having insurance or not means absolutely nothing here.

Quote
It may be, of course, that a person's legal obligations differ depending on whether information is posted for free as opposed to being developed on a commercial basis - but for the sake of a set of xmas lights I certainly wouldn't even consider it. Not for a millisecond.

And I find that quite sad  :(

If you provide technical information in good faith with suitable warnings, then you are covered.
It essentially makes no difference whether it is for free, or paid work, or in employ with a company. It always comes down to whether or not you caused danger knowingly and with a malicious intent.

In your own country, electronics magazines have been publishing main powered projects for generations, and they don't have a problem.

Dave.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2013, 09:07:55 am by EEVblog »
 

Online AndyC_772

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2013, 09:47:35 am »
OK Dave, point taken. You're probably right.

Given what I'd have to gain vs lose, though, I'd personally still choose not to post anything encouraging world+dog to play with the mains.

Offline cwalex

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2013, 11:37:07 am »
Can't you get around it by saying this is a mains operated device, don't attempt this if you aren't a qualified electrician or words to that effect?
 

Offline madires

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2013, 11:37:30 am »
Every open source thing I've ever used comes with a license that says the original author is not liable and provides no warranty.

... usage at own risk ...
... check if this project meets local safety requirements. If it doesn't, don't build it! ...
 

Offline Alana

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2013, 11:49:28 am »
Every electronics magazine article that used mains voltage directly in project had big "DANGER high voltage, project is intended for expirienced users". If big publishing company got away with this then IMO its OK. But on the other hand - they did check clerances and all that stuff.

Speaking of which - where do i find information on this subject?
 

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2013, 11:58:10 am »
Can't you get around it by saying this is a mains operated device, don't attempt this if you aren't a qualified electrician or words to that effect?

Here in Australia it's technically illegal to even wire up a mains plug, let alone design and plug in your own mains device, unless you are a licensed electrician  :palm:
So you often see disclaimers that say you should get the device tested and tagged (or even type approved! = $$$$$) before you plug it in. Therefore technically transferring liability to another body.

FYI Silicon Chips latest disclaimer for mains projects is this:
Quote
This circuit is powered directly from the 230VAC mains and operates at lethal voltages. DO NOT TOUCH ANY PART OF THE CIRCUIT WHILE IT IS PLUGGED INTO A MAINS OUTLET OR CONNECTED TO MAINS WIRING. And do not operate the circuit outside its plastic case or without the lid screwed onto the case.
But it various based on the actual project.
http://www.siliconchip.com.au/Issue/2012/April

Dave.
 

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2013, 01:33:05 pm »
I'm not an expert in law but I've not heard of many cases where a publisher has been directly liable other than the Rand McNally case, where the book publisher had to pay out $155k for a accident that happened whilst calibrating an alcohol thermometer.

I would put a warning / disclaimer on any publications that you think might be an issue;  of course actually selling something like a kit / product would fall under the goods and services act here in the UK, which is another matter entirely.
 

Offline Alana

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2013, 02:05:09 pm »
Bit off topic but valid, at least for me.
If i publish a book, fictional sci-fi story and describe some device or experiment that a character makes, am i liable for what may hapen if reader tries it out?
 

Offline Bored@Work

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2013, 04:04:17 pm »
Bit off topic but valid, at least for me.
If i publish a book, fictional sci-fi story and describe some device or experiment that a character makes, am i liable for what may hapen if reader tries it out?

You may even be in trouble for just describing it, without someone even trying it. E.g. in some parts of the world it is illegal to describe how to make certain chemical substances, like drugs.

The thing with all these questions is you have to ask a lawyer. A real one, not someone playing a lawyer on the Internet. Don't trust me, don't trust Dave's "if you do it in good faith". Get someone who is qualified and knows all the twisted ways of how the legal system work in your country.
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Offline bitwelder

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #21 on: January 03, 2013, 05:58:09 pm »
Get someone who is qualified and knows all the twisted ways of how the legal system work in your country.
At least, to end the legal madness somewhere, is it enough to be legally covered in their own country (i.e. country of the 'publisher' of the project), or if somebody gets hurt on the other side of the globe also the legal system in the country of the 'offended' can get into play?
 

Offline Bored@Work

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #22 on: January 03, 2013, 06:33:35 pm »
Get someone who is qualified and knows all the twisted ways of how the legal system work in your country.
At least, to end the legal madness somewhere, is it enough to be legally covered in their own country (i.e. country of the 'publisher' of the project), or if somebody gets hurt on the other side of the globe also the legal system in the country of the 'offended' can get into play?

Again, ask a lawyer, not me :)

What I know is that some countries think their law extend beyond their borders. I.e. if they think you "published" into a particular country, even while sitting outside of it, they might think they have jurisdiction. If they can make it stick to you is yet another issue.
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Online EEVblog

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Re: Open Source Project Worries
« Reply #23 on: January 03, 2013, 09:26:20 pm »
The thing with all these questions is you have to ask a lawyer. A real one, not someone playing a lawyer on the Internet. Don't trust me, don't trust Dave's "if you do it in good faith". Get someone who is qualified and knows all the twisted ways of how the legal system work in your country.

Keeping in mind of course, that a lawyers opinion (no matter how good they are) actually means squat. It's just slightly more informed advice than you'll get here - or maybe not. After all, how many lawyers would know the in's ad out's of the electronics industry and what is considered best practice etc?
The only opinion that matters of course is the final one of a judge or jury if the shit even does hit the fan.

Fact is, if you always operate with the best of intentions, in good faith, using best practice, with suitable warnings etc, and document that fact. The chances of being held liable for free technical content on the internet borders on zero. Even more so if you use some OSHW license that has already been vetted by fine legal minds, which usually covers you from the financial legal liability standpoint.
I challenge anyone to find a single case anywhere in the world were an individual has been found liable for a death or injury by publishing free (legal) technical content on the internet or in a magazine in good faith. Maybe there is one, but I think you'll struggle...

Dave.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2013, 09:29:15 pm by EEVblog »
 


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