[oshug] "The audio genius who vanished"

Andrew Back arback at computer.org
Sun Jan 17 19:11:29 UTC 2016


On 16 January 2016 at 20:46, Jeremy Bennett <jeremy.bennett at embecosm.com> wrote:
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> On 16/01/16 18:03, Matt Maier wrote:
>> Yeah, that's basically it. Physical, practical, functional ideas
>> are only covered by patents. If something works, the fact that it
>> works is not controlled. Copyright allows you to control the
>> description that you fixed in a medium using some amount of
>> artistic effort. But if someone uses their own artistic effort to
>> reproduce the idea in a medium they have copyright on their own
>> version.
>
> This is the fundamental problem with hardware licensing.  The main
> open hardware licences (SolderPad, CERN OHL, and TAPR OHL) address
> this by recognizing that all significant hardware relies on its
> documentation and design drawings, which can be protected by
> copyright, and so the licenses protect this.
>
> Trying to copy any significant piece of hardware without infringing
> the copyright on design documentation or drawings is quite hard, so
> these licenses work reasonably well.

I'm not so sure. I forgot the exact price quoted, but IIRC for >$100
you can have a mobile phone sized multilayer PCB photographed out in
China, with scans for each layer. Following which I should think you
could have a design entered from these plus a BOM, for a relatively
modest sum.

This is why copyleft, using copyright as a mechanism alone, will never
be anywhere like as effective as when applied to software.

> Any license is not going to stop some cheap knock-off shop in the far
> east selling small volumes online - it's not worth the legal hassle.
> But anyone trying to sell large volumes through a reputable channel
> will have difficulty. Those channels won't risk being sued, having to
> bin stock, suffer reputational damage, and then pay compensation. Look
> how many years W H Smith wouldn't stock Private Eye for fear of such
> action.

Indeed, reputation is the key thing here. Which perhaps also goes
towards explaining why you see OSHW manufacturers paying royalties to
original designers, when they are not obliged to. Although I'm sure
they in turn also benefit from maintaining a healthy relationship.

Related to this, Bunnie Huang's writing on the Chinese "Gonkai"
approach to IP makes for interesting reading:

  http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=4297

Cheers,

Andrew



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