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Open Source Licensing
  • Just listened to the Marcin's and Arron's conversation with Dan McCormick ( ), and found that the youtube comment space wasn't large enough for my response:

    To begin with, McCormick didn't inspire confidence with me with regard to his understanding of open source communities, their origins, their struggles to ensure "ideological purity" with licensing, etc.. Rather, model organizations he sprinkled in his language were outfits like "Google, Exxon, and the Department of Defense." Yuk. He failed to talk about establishing a board diverse with expertise, and instead dropped the lure of celebrity-type names. For me, that was another caution flag. There was more, but that's enough.

    Among the expertise you get, I do hope you get some (more than one) good people with deep understanding of open source ecologies. For me, someone from the Free Software Foundation or people from organizations like Linux, Ubuntu, Joomla who have been simultaneously involved both in the complexities of licensing and evolution of open source ecologies would inspire significantly more confidence in this emerging community.

    How about crowd-sourcing your recruitment list?

    I'd be interested in what other people think.
  • 4 Comments sorted by
  • It sounds like McCormick is thinking along the lines of Oracle. Make it open source, then sue people when they use it. (see: Oracle suing Google over Android)

    On the other hand, it seemed like he was gauging Marcin and changing his tune depending on how Marcin responded.

    I think Marcin is cautious and isn't going to allow someone else to co-opt the project.
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    April 2012
    Open source software is based on copyright law.  Unfortunately, open source hardware may require a basis in patent law, which will mean filing for patents.  OSE is generally against that idea, but US law says that the first person to apply for a patent wins.  Prior art matters some, but not as much as it once did. OSE is putting almost no effort into understand how to protect it's assets from outright theft.

    - Mark

  • I haven't made it all the way through that video, but it has inspired some thoughts.

    The first, and probably most significant, is that it sounds like OSE doesn't have any idea how to make the organization self-sustaining (which is a bit ironic). I assume the conversation with McCormick would have been a perfect time to mention any plans they had for bringing in money, but Marcin and Aaron were silent on that subject. It would seem that OSE is still relying on True Fans and grants. There's nothing wrong with that, I was just surprised that they don't seem to have developed any other ideas.

    The second, and least significant, is that I don't think it's a good idea for OSE to be trotting out the idea that they have a way to stop warfare. The bit where they all agreed that OSE might be able to put an end to "resource conflicts" was noteworthy only because everybody seemed to just agree on the idea and then move on. A related bit was where they decided that OSE could address the upcoming problem of Peak Water (they didn't use that term). I'm right there with everyone when I say that OSE's mission is important and good, but the case should not be overstated...particularly when the overstatement is so easy to question. 

    It was definitely interesting that the entire conversation seemed to revolve around the concept of wooing famous rich people into helping. That is certainly one approach, but it seems more like playing the lottery than investing. That impression was underscored towards the end when McCormick spent a long period of time explaining that there was no way to predict how long the recruiting process would take since they might move from an A list, to a B list, to a C list, or they might hit gold with the A list. Gambling, not investing. I did enjoy the part where McCormick, who I understand is advertising his services, stated that it would take "a year" to get these famous rich people to help OSE. A lot can change in a year. 

    I liked Aaron's suggestion to focus on a real-world test case.

    So far, all the successful open hardware companies I'm familiar with (Arduino, Makerbot, Sparkfun, etc) follow the same model. They design the open hardware, then they supply the hardware. If not the finished product at least a kit, if not a kit then at least the raw materials. They make nothing off of the design and usually nothing off of the software/drivers/firmware. All their revenue comes from the hardware itself or possibly branded merchandise. 

    This implies that, at least at the beginning, OSE should sell the machines it designs. Or, perhaps OSE could sell a service where OSE personnel would go to a place and operate the machines for someone.
  • With the endgame being abundance economics I think what is needed in the open-hardware field is a new type of patent idea like an "unpatent" to protect against the obvious problems. I was watching this Peakmoment interview about this Sustainable Economies Law Center law center whose goal is to facilitate the growth of sustainable, localized, and just economies, through legal research, professional training, resource development, and education about practices" Couldn't getting US law changed the way the world works in the way that would be best for the Opensource hardware field? oh that would take time and lots of money, yeah that thing maybe they know a way to skirt the law.

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