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Open Source Hardware Hacking Hardware

Open-Source Hardware Makers Unite To Start Certifying Products (infoworld.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld on the new certifications from the Open Source Hardware Association: The goal of certification is to clearly identify open-source hardware separate from the mish-mash of other hardware products. The certification allows hardware designs to be replicated. For certification, OSHWA requires hardware creators to publish a bill-of-materials list, software, schematics, design files, and other documents required to make derivative products. Those requirements could apply to circuit boards, 3D printed cases, electronics, processors, and any other hardware that meets OSHWA's definition of open-source hardware...OSHWA will host a directory for all certified products, something that doesn't exist today because the community is so fragmented.
After signing a legally-binding agreement, hardware makers are allowed to use the Open Hardware mark, which one of their board members believes will help foster a stronger sense of community among hardware makers. "People want to be associated with open source."
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Open-Source Hardware Makers Unite To Start Certifying Products

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  • This sounds like a good early step towards a more technologically free future. It may not be enough to prevent the Skynet apocalypse, but it's nice to see at least a few people making the effort. Personally I only trust product manufacturers that don't behave as though not trusting them is a bad thing.
    • This sounds like a good early step towards a more technologically free future.

      Momentum has been building in the open source hardware space since way back. Opencores.org [wikipedia.org] started in 1999 and now has a library of cores, some of which are in commercial use. That project is now forked as librecores.org [librecores.org], paralleling the Openoffice/Libreoffice split, to move project control into the hands of community contributors. Several initiatives are aimed at freeing up the FPGA toochain, including this toolchain project [fosdem.org] and this FPGA development board for Raspberry PI. [icoboard.org] Low cost ASIC manufacturing [europractice-ic.com] is a

      • This sounds like a good early step towards a more technologically free future.

        Momentum has been building in the open source hardware space since way back. Opencores.org [wikipedia.org] started in 1999[...]

        I was vaguely aware of these things (as I've been reading /. since 1999). The real question is whether or not the combination of Edward Snowden and Donald Trump will provide the necessary impetus for critical mass to finally be achieved. Or whether or not the powers that be are aware enough of how muc

        • The real question is whether or not the combination of Edward Snowden and Donald Trump will provide the necessary impetus for critical mass to finally be achieved.

          It is hard for me to see why that is in any sense a "real question" in regards to open hardware.

          • The real question is whether or not the combination of Edward Snowden and Donald Trump will provide the necessary impetus for critical mass to finally be achieved.

            It is hard for me to see why that is in any sense a "real question" in regards to open hardware.

            s/real/most important from my perspective/, whatever. To help you to see I'll walk you through my reasoning- A) Snowden reveals just how serious security is at all levels, in ways that the public didn't seem to be concerned much about prior. B) Trump represents the kind of literal reality persona that more overtly conflicts with the good ol' "Trust your establishment industry overlords, you have nothing to fear. Why would you ever want to trouble yourself with that cumbersome GPG geekery". And finally

            • OK, I totally buy into the proposition that open hardware could make it harder for the spooks to invade my space. But however important that issue is, I just don't see that as "the real question" about open hardware. According to me, the real question is about freedom in all its forms, that is: freedom to tinker, to experiment, to improve, to control one's own computing devices, to know what my computing devices are really doing, to do with them what I will within the boundaries of the law. In other words,

  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday November 26, 2016 @06:12PM (#53367261) Homepage Journal

    Open Hardware is a good thing to make, but we need to be aware of its limitations. Regardless of the license used, creating a device from the plans is not copyright infringement.

    Let's make sure everyone understands that. You can manufacture an open hardware design, regardless of the license, and share nothing, and it is not a crime.

    It is, however, potentially a copyright infringement if you publish the plans in violation of the license.

    This is because of this text in copyright law. This is the US version but there are similar things in many nations.

    17 CFR 102(b) (b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

    The reason for this is that functional things such as hardware are protected by patent rather than copyright.

    We should also consider what would happen if Open Hardware licenses could be enforced using copyright. Suddenly, any published schematic in a book or online publication would be protected using copyright and the copyright enforced on hardware manufacturers, including all of those in books that exist today. Which would have a major chilling effect on the Open Hardware industry and hardware production in general. We do not want this to happen.

    Thus, in general we should not use copyright-based licenses on hardware, lest the courts begin to consider this to be normal practice and create case law that supports it. Courts and legislators do this, it's how we got software patents and other nightmares of today. Let's not encourage them.

    • If you're looking for the law I discuss, it's 17 USC 102(b), not "CFR". It's here [gpo.gov], second paragraph.
    • ...in general we should not use copyright-based licenses on hardware, lest the courts begin to consider this to be normal practice and create case law that supports it...

      Why should using copyright-protected hardware designs to produce physical hardware be any different from using copyright-protected software in a commercial enterprise? The object in either case should be to preserve the freedom of the user to use it for whatever purpose they wish.

      • Why should using copyright-protected hardware designs to produce physical hardware be any different from using copyright-protected software in a commercial enterprise? The object in either case should be to preserve the freedom of the user to use it for whatever purpose they wish.

        The problem is that if we use copyright licenses on hardware, we actually endanger the freedom of the user. Currently, copyright does not apply to published schematic designs, and we have the freedom to reuse schematic designs wit

        • The problem is that if we use copyright licenses on hardware, we actually endanger the freedom of the user.

          You appear to be conflating the term "hardware" with "hardware design", which weakens your argument and makes it hard to discern what your argument actually is. On the other hand, I am sure of my position: the rights and restrictions of whichever license the creator of an original work deemed suitable for distribution of their creative work should be respected whether I agree with them or not.

          • You appear to be conflating the term "hardware" with "hardware design", which weakens your argument and makes it hard to discern what your argument actually is.

            I'm sorry. In general I work with lawyers and other specialists on this stuff and I guess I missed the level that a nonspecialist can understand.

            Right now, all schematic designs and other designs of functional things, including schematic designs, mechanical engineering designs, shapes of 3D objects, typefaces, and a long list of others I won't get in

            • You appear to be conflating the term "hardware" with "hardware design", which weakens your argument and makes it hard to discern what your argument actually is.

              I'm sorry. In general I work with lawyers and other specialists on this stuff and I guess I missed the level that a nonspecialist can understand.

              This is not about specialist or non-specialist (you would be in the latter group). This is about clarity.

              if a large number of people use copyright-based licenses on functional things and behave as if they work, we might convince courts that they do work, and then we lose a large swath of freedoms that we have now.

              It still seems perfectly appropriate to rely on copyright protection for the expression of a design, or for the non-specialist, the plans and technical description. I don't see how that is different from what practitioners are doing today, or how that should change, or actually, what point you are making. Obviously, only madmen would want to lose their freedoms, but it is far from clear how enforcing cop

              • You'll notice the FSF doesn't in general lobby for the increase in the strength of copyright law, even though it would make the GPL more enforceable. They lobby to weaken copyright law (and software patents, etc.) Because we'd lose too much, and the balance of better enforcement of the GPL would not be worth what we would lose. It's the same thing in this case.

                I am glad my customers don't consider me a non-specialist as you do. They might stop paying $7.50/minute.

        • copyright does not apply to published schematic designs

          Maybe not on your planet, but on mine ....

          • Maybe not on your planet, but on mine ...

            Well, while you are on Earth, you are probably staying in a nation. Unless, of course, your spaceship is hidden underwater, in a cloud and shielded so that we ugly bags of mostly water can't see you, or you beamed it into a cave. I like the theory that you're living in a cave the most.

            If you would like me to tell you what country you are visiting, I will tell you the exact laws regarding copyright of functional things. I've already given the one for the United States

    • Funny how hardware qualifies as a "idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery" but functional, non-artistic software somehow doesn't qualify under the same criteria, even when the two are working in concert and one won't function without the other.

      I'm sure some judge from fifty years ago is responsible for this inconsistent state of affairs. Who knows what the world would look like today if that judge had come up with a different ruling, and declared that softwar

      • The answer to this is that the functional parts of your software are not copyrightable, but the expressive parts are. So you can not copyright an algorithm or an API (complexity in Oracle v. Google ignored), or a data structure, or the names and definitions of constants and variables, or a function name and its arguments and return, or anything dictated by the need to inter-operate or physical law, but you can copyright your particular way of writing code where there is more than one choice of how you writ

        • So you can copyright the exact way you lay out the traces on a PCB, then, too?

          • Perhaps, I've not read up on cases. Automated routing would not be sufficiently expressive.
            • Yeah the cases are what interest me here. It comes down to a matter of opinion by judges, and that opinion can be really fine hair splitting. Like, is it 'expressive' to lay out your buttons in a certain way in your UI for your paint program, but not expressive to choose the layout of microchips on your video card? I imagine there must have been a small handful of pivotal cases that decided that issue, and put software into the domain of copyright.

              If it wasn't for this quirk of history, there wouldn't be co

  • Use of copyright on intermediate copies is effective for using copyright to restrict the use of software. The end product of software is the execution of the software in the CPU, and is not possible to separate the execution from the intermediate copying which precedes it.

    So, some legal theorists suggested using intermediate copying to restrict the production of 3D-printed objects using copyright, even though the objects themselves can not be protected with copyright under 17 USC 102(b) and similar law.

    Use of copyright on intermediate copies is not, however, effective for restriction of copying of two-dimensional or three dimensional shapes, because the end product is a rendering or physical object which can be measured independently of the program that created it, and embodies all of the attributes of the shape. In the case of fonts, one need only render the font in a license-compliant manner, and then trace the outline of the resulting glyph into another program. This is a well-established way of bringing typefaces into Open Source from proprietary fonts, without copyright infringement.

    In the case of 3D objects, any means of fitting a mesh or other geometric representation to the created shape would provide a means to bring that shape into another program in a manner that does not infringe on the copyright of the program or data which is used to create the shape. This would include various methods of scanning, optical ones or even exotic things such as CT and MRI. It would also be possible to record the physical movement of the printer or the light beam in producing the object, and map that back to a shape.

    So, we have well-established precedent and I'd feel very comfortable testifying about 3D objects (and of course typefaces) not being capable of protection using copyright, in a relevant case.

    Design patents, on the other hand, would work fine.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Would you please comment on this piece of news about UK government extending copyright on designs to 3D printed objects ?
      I would agree with you, but I fear the laws are already changing.
      http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/08/uk-copyright-extension-designed-objects-3d-printing/

      • Andy Katz is reasonably well informed on these topics and I agree with him. It's an attack on 3D printing and I wonder how much public consultation there was before it happened.
  • The article mentions a Beaglebone Black as "open source" - does this lack the management engine [networkworld.com] that is commonly included with ARM processors?

    The only open/modern CPU that I know of that lacks a management engine is the SPARC T2 [oracle.com].

    • The design of the board may be Open Source - I've not seen the license, etc., but the chips are very definitely not open. In general people who claim to make Open Hardware do use closed chips. Currently there is a RiscV chip which could claim to be Open but it doesn't have sufficient facilities like on-board program memory on-chip for most practical embedded implementations yet, and not the MMU, etc., required for desktops. I'm sure it will get there.
    • As far as management engines, how about the POWER line from IBM?

  • i tried explaining the problem to the OSHWA group: they didn't get it. the problem with their Certification Programme is that there's nothing in their document which covers liability if a design causes injury or death (deliberate or accidental). the OSHWA group is therefore setting themselves up for a class action lawsuit where some incompetent person designs something extremely badly, slaps an OSHWA logo on it, then a chinese company goes and copies it (logo included... without bothering to find out what

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