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Ask Slashdot: Best Open Source License For Guitar? 102

Posted by samzenpus
from the modular-guitar dept.
First time accepted submitter PraxisGuitars writes "I am working on developing an open source electric guitar. I wish to make the basic structural system completely open and free, with a standardized interface allowing different body shapes and modules to be bolted on. I am having trouble figuring out the best way to release the files. There seem to be at least half a dozen open source licenses out there; The Thingiverse has some precedent for open source 3d data, but version control seems like it might be difficult. I have looked into sourceforge and github, but don't know enough to know if that would be the best choice. Are there other precedents out there? Is there a better way?"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Open Source License For Guitar?

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  • Well (Score:1, Insightful)

    by buanzo (542591)
    It is not software, maybe a CC license?
    • What are RipRap plans posted under? That seems to me it would be the proper choice- especially since it would enable "free as in beer" replication.

    • by buanzo (542591)
      or you can always create your own license
    • by jd (1658)

      CC would be good because it's designed for multiple types of data.

      I just checked OpenCores (the first of the hardware open source sites) and the preferred license is LGPL on there. I would say that if it's already in use for hardware specs and is working for that then it's a viable license to use.

  • by Freshly Exhumed (105597) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @04:55PM (#38452964) Homepage

    Check out these various Open Source hardware projects for licensing ideas:

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/10/31/2221206/open-hardware-journal [slashdot.org]

  • I think this is something of value the community needs to look at more closely. The OSHW provides licensing models that can help like FOSS. There are also some helpful areas like http://www.ohanda.org/ [ohanda.org] that provide housing for these kinds of communities - but they don't get a lot of traction. It would be interesting to see if a Sourceforge project page could be used to help communicate and list in the directory or to (more importantly) help promote the idea.
  • Trademark (Score:4, Informative)

    by king neckbeard (1801738) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @05:02PM (#38453028)
    If you wish to keep it standardized, I'd say that you should just release it under public domain or WTFPL, and get a trademark. License the trademark to anyone that adheres to certain specs.
    • Mozilla does this with Firefox: the code is under an open source license for copyright purposes, but the logo/name are trademarked.
      also, many tech standards aren't as cheap or permissive to use, but standards compliance is enforced partially via trademark on the name/logo

  • Bruce Perens (Score:5, Informative)

    by bhima (46039) <Bhima.Pandava@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @05:02PM (#38453034) Journal

    You need to talk to Bruce Parens. He's easy to find.

  • What some bicycle people are doing may be similar to what you are trying to do (or not).
    bb30 [bb30standard.com]
    freehub [bikerumor.com]
  • What really matters is the scale length and the neck pocket dimensions. Everyone uses the "Fender" spec so you can use interchangeable necks should one break. Pickup sizes are mostly standardized. The entire industry works around a set of "standards" that mostly work well together as long as you don't copy the headstock look.

    • by Abreu (173023)

      This. Most guitars parts and accessories already use either the Fender or the Gibson specs.

      Also, musicians are notoriously resistant to change and, since Leo Fender died, not many innovations in electric guitar design have catched on.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Ahem....

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steinberger [wikipedia.org]

        Major big guitarists play one and lust after one.

        • by Zedrick (764028)
          Are you joking? I tried one of those in the late 80's. Very uncomfortable, the sound is too light for anything but pop music not to mention that it has a silly look. The only "good" thing is that it lightweight, but again - that's something only useable for weak pop music-guitarists.
        • by Abreu (173023)

          Stuff like Steinbergers or Parkers have not "catched on" by any stretch of imagination with guitar players.

          Maybe if you had mentioned Ovation clamshell back acoustics I would have conceded a point.

  • by rbulling (7973) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @05:23PM (#38453266) Homepage

    You could use the TAPR Open Hardware License:

    http://www.tapr.org/OHL

    It's a copyleft-style license drafted by a lawyer that permits a broad range of activity. Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond helped review it. Open hardware licenses are still in the early stages of evolution and adoption. If TAPR does not meet your needs, the Wikipedia entry on Open-source hardware lists more alternatives:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_hardware

  • by SlippyToad (240532) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @05:28PM (#38453328)

    Why a license is necessary, or why it is an open-source guitar. The basic functionality of a guitar is well beyond reach of any patents or copyrights. And I read your website -- cheap guitars can be had for under $100 these days that are very good for a beginner. Basses are a little more but still, I can have a copy of Jaco Pastorius' bass for $275.

    I suppose there is some larger scheme here that I am missing. I know I couldn't play a guitar that looked like that. I would spend more time disentangling it from my clothes and cables than playing it!

    • by GrahamCox (741991)
      I suppose there is some larger scheme here that I am missing.

      Well, some people, you know, like making stuff for themselves, rather than being just another consumer. It's infinitely more satisfying to make something than to buy it, even if it's more costly.

      That said, I can't see what licensing has to do with this. Publish the plans and if they're any good people will use them. If the motivation is really ego, and simply attaching your name to the design isn't enough, then perhaps the OP needs to rethin
    • I suppose there is some larger scheme here that I am missing.

      Here is the larger scheme:

      (imagine you are dangling over a shark tank or something)

      The neck-frame of the guitar features an innovative structural junction that allows the internal resonance of the instrument to be tweaked by redirecting how the string tension is resolved. This would be patentable, but I am choosing to make it public domain. I have a string of other guitar innovations (new sensors, etc) that I wish to profit from. I believe that I have the most to gain by making the framework public domain

      • If you genuinely want other people to build them, you have to get rid of the non-commercial restriction mentioned on your site. You can't build a market from the handful of people with the interest, equipment and skills to do this.

        The idea of "Open Source" is laughable -- you could buy build-your-own-instrument plans long before the birth of software development. I suggest you have a look at the copyright statements on standard guitar plans from StewMac et al.

  • Well, your guitar is not considered to be under copyright.
    So open source licenses do not apply to your project, since, well, there is no binary.

    So you can Either choose a creative commons license, there are lots of them to choose from.

    Or, you could make your own license, along the lines of the GPL, which would disallow people from selling your guitars unless they passed on the files that told how to construct them with the guitar. That alone would be in the spirit of an open source license. The EFF would pr

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @05:38PM (#38453492)
    I find this absolutely fascinating. As someone who has spent some time in a guitar repair shop this makes a lot of sense. Or if it doesn't, it is at least not without some sense. I took a look and the Praxis Zero looks absolutely wicked. To have one of those on stage would draw endless praise and positive attention (speaking from the level of the local scene in a big town). A modular guitar is a great idea as I wouldn't have to "fret" so much over specs as I choose my next axe. Rather, I could just change the specs on my one machine. All makes and models of guitars sound different than all other makes and models - this I don't have to explain to you the particulars of. If I could transform my p-bass into a j-bass for one gig without having switch to a whole different kit that would be great. At the very least it would have a strong and worthwhile nitch. Unfortunately, I have no answers and only questions but I wanted to back you up that this isn't a dumb idea. Will there be a bass centric version?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Modular guitars aren't new, and they've never been popular. Even modular on a smaller scale -- making pick-ups swappable without tools, for instance -- has never caught on with the public; Gibson tried it again just recently and the buying public gave a collective "who gives a fuck?"

      I'm honestly not sure why this is the case, although my guess is it's because most of us think of guitar bodies less like commoditized combinations of parts and more as a whole that either has that sound you want or doe

    • The bass is in the works. In my experience, you never know what sound you want until you hear it; I designed the system to encourage tinkering. I am hoping after the system goes online people will upload examples of how certain setups sound - to make it easier for other people to find the tone they seek.
  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @05:39PM (#38453512) Homepage Journal

    I'm curious: what part of the design of an electric guitar would not already be completely covered by prior art? Unless you do something really extraordinary with the electronics, which I wouldn't recommend because all that's best done downstream from your output jack, or have some really innovative tuning system (like the automated tuning done on new high end models of the Les Paul) there's not a lot that you're going to do that's going to be new and therefore license-able. The dimensions (or at least the ratios) are standard if you expect to stay in tune, and you can put your tuning pegs at one end of the strings or the other (ala Steinberg). I suppose you could create some innovative process for routing the body or planing the neck or come up with some fantastic new material with extraordinary acoustic properties. Maybe there's room for special design in truss rods or pickups. But I guess the question would be: why?

    How about this: Come up with a nicely designed electric guitar and release your design into the public domain. Then you don't have to worry about licenses at all. If it's a fantastic design, you'll get your recognition.

    I wonder: was the original Les Paul patented? I know humbucking pickups were, and certain tuning systems/bridges and designs for vibrato tailpieces.

    Just so you know, making your guitar in the shape of an axe/rocketship/state of Texas? Already been done.

    • I, for one, welcome something extraordinary with the electronics.

      A large number of the significant improvements to the guitar that matter to guitarists have all happened ahead of the output jack. Humbucking pickups (which you already mentioned), active electronic pickup systems, locking tuners, various vibrato assemblies, noise cancelling single coil pickups like the Fender Lace Sensor and its successors, the Sustainiac and Fernandes Sustainer systems, piezoelectric pickups, different formulations of gui

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        it's not like Ted Nugent could plug in some effect box and sound like Eddie Van Halen

        With modeling and convolution processing, he certainly can. He could even create a sufficiently complex multisample of Van Halen and sound exactly like him.

        Well, to be honest, I don't think Ted Nugent could do that because he's a moron, but let's say any guitarist with an IQ above 90 could do it.

        A large number of the significant improvements to the guitar that matter to guitarists have all happened ahead of the output jac

    • by 1000101 (584896)

      I suppose you could create some innovative process for routing the body or planing the neck

      praxis guitars [praxisguitars.com]

      I see some pretty good ideas here that I haven't seen from Gibson, Fender, et al. With that said, /. isn't exactly the best place to ask for legal advice, which is what you need. If you're serious about this life decision (which, from what I can see from your website, you clearly are), go talk to a lawyer. Don't let posts like:

      Just so you know, making your guitar in the shape of an axe/rocketship/state of Texas? Already been done.

      stop you from pursuing your dreams.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        praxis guitars

        Those are some seriously cool-looking guitars. Those deeply scalloped frets however, are really only for a certain type of shredder.

        But no question, if the guy(s) at praxis get enough dough from kickstarter to really get going, there are going to be some players snapping up those instruments.

        Custom stringed instruments are wonderful. A few years ago, I had a luthier in North Carolina make me a tenor ukulele with a parquet fretboard. The wood was all exotic and all sustainable and he had an

  • Don't get me wrong, I love open source, and custom guitars are really cool, but what in the world is the point? A quick internet search brings up schematics for every meaningful electric guitar built in the past 50 years. Have you invented a new way to wrap the pickup coils, or invented a new way to wire up volume knobs? It isn't like Fender and Gibson have a monopoly, and wood does grow on trees. You can shape the thing any way you want with tools available at any hardware store. Are you really obsess
    • I'm with OP on this - this seems like a non-issue. If you want people to know the part specs, post them on your website under public domain. Version control is a non-issue - if the drawings are in 2D then have a title block. If the files are in 3D then put it in the properties.
    • by mooncaine (778422)

      "The pickups are attached to a plate that can be easily swapped."

      Why? Here's why: "The pickups are attached to a plate that can be easily swapped."

      That's 1 example, probably the single thing that would attract more players than anything else, and there are plenty of good ideas in your guitar plans to go along with that. I like the idea of swapping out necks, too.

      I'd want fingerboard options like: zero fret, 24 frets, scalloped, fretless, a fat vintage C profile and some other profiles.... If I had to lathe

      • by edremy (36408)

        "The pickups are attached to a plate that can be easily swapped."

        Why? Here's why: "The pickups are attached to a plate that can be easily swapped."

        That's 1 example, probably the single thing that would attract more players than anything else, and there are plenty of good ideas in your guitar plans to go along with that. I like the idea of swapping out necks, too.

        And that's different from a Stratocaster in what way? I can already easily swap out the pickups- they're attached to the pickguard, and I can buy any number of pickguards preloaded with various pickups/electronics for a Strat. I can pull off the neck anytime I want and swap in a new one- it's only four screws, and there are a dozen companies out there that make Strat compatible necks. I can assemble a Strat entirely from random parts- they are almost totally interchangeable.

        (My biggest frustration with m

    • by swalve (1980968)
      I guess that's my question too. Under what legal framework does he think he is licensing this? Copyright? Trademark? Patent? And what does he hope to accomplish?
    • Why? The future! Praxis guitars uses a digitally automated build process. It goes like this- I generate machine code, load raw materials into the cnc, and run the code. After the computer program runs on the machine, out comes a mostly finished guitar. I could then email the code to someone else with a programmable cnc, they run it, and out comes an exact copy of my guitar.
  • I'd really appreciate it if you kept me updated at andrew_tess1@yahoo.com.au, this fascinates me.
  • If I switch out pickup A for pickup B and then go back to A, how to I make sure i'm going to get the same sound in the second 'A' as in the first... It's bad enough when you put on new strings...

    I'm a bassist and I have a Musicman Stingray and a Sterling. Two basses with different pickup magnets and different bodies. Is it worth the modularity to avoid having to spend say another $1500 on a bass? If you're serious about music, you'll just get two instruments one with each sound.

    • by TwobyTwo (588727)
      I think it's generally agreed that, especially with typical instruments being made primarily of wood, even seemingly identical instruments have significant variation in tone, and sometimes in playability as well. I would not, for example, expect two Musicman Stingrays to sound exactly the same, even if they were made within days of each other, had exactly the same type of finish, neck shape etc., and were strung with supposedly identical strings. It's not impossible they'd sound about the same, but it certa
    • by walshy007 (906710)

      If I switch out pickup A for pickup B and then go back to A, how to I make sure i'm going to get the same sound in the second 'A' as in the first... It's bad enough when you put on new strings...

      Aside from any miniscule (sub mm) changes in it from slight mounting changes, it is the same guitar, so it should sound the same.

      If I attach a 50mm lens to my dslr, then swap it out for a 300mm one, then back to a 50mm one, should I expect the 50mm to behave differently between the two times? no. The laws of physics do not change just to piss off musicians, the same thing will do the same thing.

      I'm a bassist and I have a Musicman Stingray and a Sterling. Two basses with different pickup magnets and different bodies. Is it worth the modularity to avoid having to spend say another $1500 on a bass? If you're serious about music, you'll just get two instruments one with each sound.

      The price of decent musical instruments these days is ridiculous compared to the material costs, my digital piano

    • I'm an IT professional. I'm serious. I've never spent over $1000 on any of my computers. IT pros make more than most musicians... I don't know how the assertion that they should spend more if they're serious makes any sense.
      Unless an instrument is completely different (as is likely with an acoustic guitar), the reason most guitarists have multiple guitars is just wankery.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'm an IT professional. I'm serious. I've never spent over $1000 on any of my computers.

        That's not comparable at all, I do most of my computer work on an old P3 laptop that was given to me when it was about to be trashed. And obviously you don't use google, how much do you think their infrastructure costs?

        IT pros make more than most musicians...

        Wow, an IT 'pro'... you are aware that most muscians are amateurs and have part / full time jobs?

        I don't know how the assertion that they should spend more if the

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You can post your files, schematics and associated stuff to solderpad.com [solderpad.com] - which provides a git repo and various ways to view the info.

    Seems they accept anything under an Open Source Hardware license: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_hardware#Noteworthy_licenses [wikipedia.org]

  • Don't over-analyse this. Yes, there are no patents that make this necessary, there is a hellava lot prior art too. Anybody can make a guitar, and the amount of study required is not that much and all the information is easy to find (I've looked).

    I had a look at the guitar, its gorgeous. I'd like to see people play with the style that he has started and make a whole range of open, gorgeous models.

    Having an easy base to build off allows the artist to just get-on with the art. Hopefully the frame and the nec

  • This sounds more like an industrial design, and there is a specific type of IP design to protect a shape for a product. There is no need for an open source hardware project to be completely novel, so what he should just do is release the blueprints of his guitar under a GPL license. This is what most people are doing nowadays. Now, if you *really* wish to create something novel, you should then engage a community of luthiers and enthusiasts to develop your design even further.

  • It seems like the patents for most of the popular designs (ie, Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Les Paul) are long out of patent. As a matter of fact the market is largely many companies just copying those three designs with a few other unique things thrown in.

    As a matter of fact there's already a large market for building renditions of these (checkout the builders forums over at http://www.tdpri.com/ [tdpri.com] if your'e interested). Do we really need a new design when the classics are freely buildable?).

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