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Hi Guys,

When I go through the products of any maker website (big and small), I notice that there's quite number of products (either Arduino boards derivatives or supporting boards for Arduino) is basically not open source at all (at least in my point of view). The only documentation that I can see is probably a schematic in PDF form and some IC datasheet. 

So, do you guys consider these type of products open source hardware?   
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I haven't looked but doesn't open source require the release of PCB files and/or Gerbers etc?

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Rob
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Some of them don't. Usually a PDF of schematic the most.
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IMHO it depends. The licensing terms are the most relevant. You can publish "everything" still have a closed license. On the other hand if the circuit is simple enough then a schematic would be already sufficient to "copy" it. You may argue that this requires that potential makers are able to transfer the schematic into a PCB CAD program and route it. But on the other hand a lot of people do not even know how to use a PCB CAD program. This is demonstrated every once in a while when people complain because only the CAD files are present. Also you might provide CAD files that are not readable by any free / open source software.

In the end it depends on your definition if you consider it "open enough" for your own purposes. Thus I wonder about your question. Why do you ask if we consider the products open? Also you questions seems to imply that "maker" has stick to "open" in whatever sense of the definition. If so, why do you think so?
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I came across boards especially Arduino variants that basically doesn't improve or change anything compared to the original boards. Sometimes, it probably has only solder mask color changes or things like that. For me it's like going for the profit without giving anything back to the community except it's cheaper. I think having the design files in a CAD that has at least free/non-profit version allows the end users to learn and probably modify them for their own use I guess. That's how probably the products will improve. For an example, I just saw someone made a Bus Pirate variants that uses different chips compared to the original one made by Dangerous Prototypes. Without the open spirit, it will be harder (I'm not saying impossible) to do things like that. 
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I understand your idea about "spirit". IMHO the schematics are more important than the CAD files. What exactly would you mean with "better" products if you rule out "cheaper" as an improvement?
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So, do you guys consider these type of products open source hardware?

I think your commingling two different subjects.

1. Legal conditions of the licence, does it give everyone the 'right' to copy the design? If yes, then
    it is open source hardware in my opinion.
2. Ease of replication, does it provide all the information to make copying easier? This item doesn't
    define if it's open source or not, just how much effort one needs to put forth to replicate the design.


Lefty 
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Just for the sake of argument. Would you consider my Blinkenlight Shield https://shop.ruggedcircuits.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=4&products_id=47? Would you consider my documentation http://www.blinkenlight.net detrimental or helpful?

My hope is that it will promote the community. Still I would consider my license terms (CC BY-NC-SA) not exactly open source. My choice of license is exactly designed to avoid what you describe. If I would make it completely open I would have to accept what you describe. This way there are still loopholes but at least I have a slim theoretical chance to avoid commercial exploitation by others.

If I would make it completely open source I would have to accept that others can and probably will exploit it.

What do you think?
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I think your commingling two different subjects.

1. Legal conditions of the licence, does it give everyone the 'right' to copy the design? If yes, then
    it is open source hardware in my opinion.
2. Ease of replication, does it provide all the information to make copying easier? This item doesn't
    define if it's open source or not, just how much effort one needs to put forth to replicate the design.

I think the products that fell into that close/open product usually don't state their license. But, if let's say the product is a derivatives of an Arduino or product complementing Arduino, it does need to follow the same licensing right?

I understand your idea about "spirit". IMHO the schematics are more important than the CAD files. What exactly would you mean with "better" products if you rule out "cheaper" as an improvement?
A good example of better product would be the Seeeduino. It's a derivatives work and it still inherits all the open spirit of the original works.

Just for the sake of argument. Would you consider my Blinkenlight Shield https://shop.ruggedcircuits.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=4&products_id=47? Would you consider my documentation http://www.blinkenlight.net detrimental or helpful?

My hope is that it will promote the community. Still I would consider my license terms (CC BY-NC-SA) not exactly open source. My choice of license is exactly designed to avoid what you describe. If I would make it completely open I would have to accept what you describe. This way there are still loopholes but at least I have a slim theoretical chance to avoid commercial exploitation by others.

If I would make it completely open source I would have to accept that others can and probably will exploit it.

What do you think?

That is some really awesome work! I would still consider your work as very open in this case (although with the missing CAD files or I might miss them on your website). I understand your fear of being ripped off but with the amount of support you are giving (the documentation, samples sketches, and even the experience process), I'm sure that even if there's someone that wants to copy your work and sell them, the community will still get yours in my opinion. smiley
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Complimentary products are not derived work. Hence they need not follow the licensing scheme. If you derive from Arduino you have to stick to the license though.

I can not easily upload the CAD files without getting into the legal jungle of licensing issues. Since the board is simple enough I figure that anyone who is able to manufacture PCBs would be able to replicate the layout. Anyway I am pretty sure that the price is good enough that you can not create just one or two boards and get it any cheaper.

So although open in mind I stick to what is technically closed source.

Anyhow thanks for appreciating my work although it is not 100% open.
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I always thought open meant that you could use whatever they provided in your project.  If they provide the schematic, that what you can use.  If they provide the CAD files, then you can use them.  Whatever they provide is fair to use.  If you carry this too far people will be expecting you to provide the software to read the CAD files, the computer to run it on and a person to type in the commands.

Take what they provide in the spirit they provide it. 
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I always thought open meant that you could use whatever they provided in your project.  If they provide the schematic, that what you can use.  If they provide the CAD files, then you can use them.  Whatever they provide is fair to use.  If you carry this too far people will be expecting you to provide the software to read the CAD files, the computer to run it on and a person to type in the commands.

Take what they provide in the spirit they provide it. 

But this ignores Lefty's point about the license, which is more important, when it comes to acceptable use. The parallel in the world of software is disclosure of source code under a non-disclosure agreement, which is quite common. And, continuing to attempt parallels, in the world of "open source" software, there are myriad licenses, and some dispute about what constitutes "open". However, some people have worked quite hard to set up definitions, which, even if they aren't universally accepted, provide some commonality which has found significant usage. See the Open Source Initiative. And then there's the Free Software Foundation, which is a more idealistic, and stricter definition.

My perception, perhaps incomplete and/or errant, is that the open hardware community is less mature, and doesn't have people like Eric S. Raymond and Richard Stallman pushing for recognition of a set of stated principles. I'm sure there are people working in that direction, but perhaps not with the same level of visibility. Since Bruce Perens (instrumental in the Open Source world) has taken up hardware as a cause, perhaps this will change.

In re. whether some piece of hardware is truly "open", well, I doubt there will ever be complete consensus on that. In that aspect, I do agree with Draythomp that you take what's there in the spirit in which it was provided. This is the case in the world of Free and Open Source Software. For example, the GPL, BSD, and Apache licenses are all "open", but confer a differing set up usage licenses.
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the open hardware community is less mature, and doesn't have people like Eric S. Raymond and Richard Stallman pushing for recognition of a set of stated principles.
Yes, less mature.  No, "doesn't have people working on it."

See http://freedomdefined.org/OSHW
http://www.openhardwaresummit.org/
And to some extent, much of http://creativecommons.org/

Some of the clone vendors "don't get it", which is sad.  Some DO, which is cool.
A nearly exact clone probably need not publish their own schematic or PCB.  After all, the published reference designs for the official Uno are not quite what is actually shipped, either (hopefully just the silkscreen, which contains trademarked symbols and whatnot...)  (also, occasionally the Arduino team falls a bit behind on publishing the schematic/pcbs.  Hopefully that's because they're really busy.)  Note that various OSSW licenses only require that the source be available "if asked for"; they don't necessarily require that it be continuously available for public download...


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I didn't mean that nobody was working on it. I've been aware of Lessig's work on the CC, for example, since its inception. BTW, 'Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace' is an excellent read. I don't see eye-to-eye with Lessig in some areas, but politics aside, he's dead on in a lot things.

I'm certainly biased towards software. So the work of ESR, RMS, and Perens is much more familiar to me than anyone in the hardware arena. But once you jump into Open Source and Free Software, it's hard to not hear of ESR and RMS. I've been piddling around with this for about 6 months (really?  smiley-eek ) and I haven't heard of anyone with a similar level of name recognition. Perhaps I'm just not looking in the right places. The closest thing I've seen to recognition of an evangelist was Wired's piece on Limor Fried.
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