Subject: Re: [ppc-mobo] Re: GPL-like hardware design license?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Tue, 5 Oct 1999 21:34:22 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "John" == John Metzger <> writes:

    >> If the designs were publically available, they would be useful
    >> in education.  Etc, etc.

    John> Sure, but where's the profit in that? I'm not part of the
    John> subsidized education establishment.

The point is, where's the _cost_ in that?  _No cost to you, no subsidy
to education necessary._  This looks like perpetual motion, but it's
not against the laws of thermodynamics.  Of course the question, how
to get you your profit in the case where certain such uses are
permitted, remains.  Economically difficult, but not a physical

Discussing how to design business plans (and incidentally licenses) to
turn that trick is what the FSB list is about.

    John> If I improve upon the public design, but don't publish those
    John> improvements how does that harm the community any more than

Exactly as the public harms you by using your design without paying
for it in the education scenario.  The analogy is exact.

    John> my not making those improvements because I have no way to
    John> earn the investment back?

Straw man.  Nobody says _you_ have to use a GNU GPL-like license.

    >> But it's not an issue of "impossibility."  You're simply a
    >> fellow who's unwilling to pay the entire development cost for
    >> the only unit ever produced of the improved design.

    John> I'm unwilling to pay the (Large) development costs of
    John> improving the design, if you and everyone else can use the
    John> design without repaying those costs.

Come now; you're not saying that you _would_ "pay the (Large)
development costs" (all by yourself) if we could be prevented from
using the design (and incidentally not pay you anything)?

Why do you care who pays for it, as long as it gets paid for?

How?  Well, that's what this list is here for; c'mon and join the party!

    >> Hardware has other costs beyond the designers' time, and may be
    >> more difficult.

    John> Bingo....

But you know, there are many self-styled "inventors" who spend lots of 
time and money on their careers/hobbies, and never make a dime---and
realistically, never have a hope.

Who knows?  If they had the organizational advantages that the Linux
community has, maybe they could create a killer product or seven,
too.  Maybe they already have, and it'll be announced on Yahoo tonight.

A slightly different point, based on a different message in the thread:

    John> How about the RAM chips.  Think we can improve on those? How
    John> far do we take this? Do we have to design the resistors and
    John> capacitors too?

I suppose not.  But what real harm would be done by making these
designs public, especially with a lag of say a year?  It's not the
design that's expensive here, as you point out, it's the chip fabs,
and we just won't have access to them.  While Samsung & Co already do.

The point is that it just ain't clear that there really is a
qualitative difference between hardware and software in these
respects, although surely there is a huge quantitative difference in
some parameters.  That may mean that "community hardware" is going to
be harder to motivate and develop than "community software"; it
doesn't mean it's impossible.  And trying to figure out how to make
that work is a pleasant way to while away the hours that we have more
of than money....

Back to the first message:

    John> My point is that with hardware the license should NOT be GPL
    John> like in requiring modifications to be published. It would be
    John> nice if they where. I don't care if they aren't. I'd much
    John> rather have a chance to buy someone else's improved hardware
    John> rather than discourage them from making the hardware at all.

Then apply a different license to your own product.  People who want
to apply a GPL-like license to their products have just as much right
to demand that that idea and all its derivatives remain available to
everyone as you have to demand that your idea turn a profit.  And you
can let them figure out how to pay for their own retirements.

    John> The same applies to software.

Yup, you can argue that.  But some people simply like the idea that
their software, and anything based on it, will always be available to
anybody who wants to create more software out of it for the sake of
creating software.  An economy whose currency is ideas, not money.
The GNU GPL is a great instrument for this purpose.

And other people simply disagree with you.  They believe that, at
least for the domain of software, the GNU GPL is a more effective way
of creating large amounts of useful, economically valuable products
and making them available to users and developers of derivative
products than the alternative licenses.

And yet others believe that it will work for hardware too, if done

University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."