Interesting turn of events in Open Source Hardware

From Make Blog: What is your definition of Open Source Hardware?

The discussion is very interesting, and is relevant to those who want to know all the business ins and outs of Open Source. The thing that is very interesting is the whole non-commercial aspect. In the article that was mentioned above, people used a Creative Commons - Non-Commercial - Share Alike License for the project and because of the licence, LadyAda mentioned that it could not be Open Source Hardware. This seemed to have become an issue because people are afraid of people profiteering off of their resources and credit not being given.

The thing is that all Open Source licences protect from profiteering. The granddaddy of them all, and the one that Nitobi uses is the GPL. The GPL is really putting everything out there. What is says is that as long as we distribute code, you will be able to do the following:

  • Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
  • Freedom 1: The freedom to study and modify the program.
  • Freedom 2: The freedom to copy the program so you can help your neighbor.
  • Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

It doesn't say anything about who can use it. It says the public, which would mean that anyone can use it. If you make it non-commercial, it means that Freedom 3 is gone. From an idealistic point of view, it may sound good, but in reality, it shoots you in the foot, and dooms the project to be forever a side-project and limits the opportunities for people to participate. However, what would be best practice for this case is to dual license your project under a more permissive licence. This is what Mozilla does with Firefox. Despite what people like RMS would tell you, Dual-Licensing code is a good idea, and it allows you to have dialog with the people who are using your code, whether they agree with the goals of Free and Open Source Software or not.

Still, it's interesting seeing Open Source Hardware have these discussions, since it seems that in software, they've gotten rather entrenched as of late.