[hackerspaces] Idea: things.hackerspaces.org now that Thingiverse is not ok anymore

Yves Quemener quemener.yves at free.fr
Wed Sep 26 04:32:16 CEST 2012

On 09/25/2012 12:17 PM, Matt Joyce wrote:
 > In case anyone is into discussing it.

Hello Matt

Your article triggered a lot of thoughts.

I wonder if the open hardware community is not trying too hard to mimic the 
free software movement without considering the differences between hardware 
and software.

I think that the open source licenses were the core tool in making the free 
software movement the success it is today. The GPL especially made a very 
good job at using the specifics of the software world and using them to 
make new kind of collaborations possible and profitable to the whole community.

Maybe does the open hardware movement need to make its own set of rules, 
adapted to the hardware world?

As I see it, there are two different kind of open hardware today :
- The kind that has its blueprints freely available but that needs to be 
assembled from bought machined parts. The reprap, the makerbots.
- The kind that can be generated totally from raw materials and open 
hardware : most objects on thingiverse.

The analogy with software works great for the second kind. Software is 
cheap to copy and does not require manual work. Even if printed parts 
require a lot more time, electricity and a few cents of plastics, the 
analogy can work well.

But the first kind is a very different beast. It is similar to the 
situation where the free software world was when neither linux nor gcc 
existed. One can still find examples of free software that require 
proprietary content to work correctly, but they are not the norm. In the 
open hardware world, most of the useful things are not 100% printable or 
CNC-able (not even 50%). Until we are able to print electrical engines, 
board, chips, metal axis, etc. this will be the situation.

What is the best way to deal with that?

Makerbot used to be a facilitator for the duplication of the first kind of 
hardware : selling prepared kits or even completely mounted machines, they 
made duplication of printing machines affordable and not time-consuming. 
With their change of policy, they now only focus on helping the duplication 
of the second kind of open hardware : the printable ones.

This is still useful (and I still support them) but that means that 
suddenly, they will probably stop doing efforts on the first kind of open 
hardware. A free software analogy would be Linus Torvalds saying that v2.0 
of the kernel would become proprietary but would still be a full POSIX OS 
and would support GNU with dedication. It would have angered many people, 
but would not have prevented the development of new OSS tools. (Actually 
this is a bit dishonest comparison because Linus does not have to run a 
manufacturing business to release Linux)

Isn't there a way to find a license that would allow duplication 
facilitators of the first kind of open hardware to make a living? I know 
that open-source types frown upon "non-commercial" clauses, like in the CC, 
but couldn't something like that (maybe with a short time limit) help 
makerbot make a living while being a community actor ? I could imagine a 
clause saying "until <this date+one year>, only non-commercial duplication 
is allowed".

This would prevent carbon-copy competition. This would not "protect profit 
generating innovation", as you put it, but this part seems antinomic with 
what the whole open-source/hardware movement is about.


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