Smári McCarthy on some issues with Open Hardware Licenses

Do we need Open Hardware Licenses for Open Source Physical Objects, and under what conditions?

Smári McCarthy:

The problem with Open Source licenses on physical objects is that even though they might do the trick in a legal context, it isn’t what they’re designed to do, so the wording is all wrong. It’s like selling vodka as a disinfectant. It’ll do the job marvelously, but a lot of people will remain skeptic.

Conversely I think doing an “Open Hardware License” would be missing the point to a certain degree – the boundaries between hardware and software are bound to grow increasingly fuzzy as we draw closer to digital fabrication (let alone molecular assembly), and even if we lump those two together we’d be neglecting all the other kinds of “intellectual property”, such as ideas, etc.

I consider patents to be harmful by design. Their original purpose, to spur innovation, worked to a certain degree but it certainly doesn’t scale (much like the republic) – as soon as you have a certain number of innovators, they find their options limited by the number of existing patents, and the patent system becomes counterproductive. Bounty based systems may be better for certain purposes, but this is an issue I haven’t seen anybody nail properly yet.

Which brings me to my point: What we need isn’t just a new license, it’s a new terminology for dealing with “objects”, both physical and imaginary, something that encompasses both snugly, fits in with modern legalese and does the job patents were originally intended for without artificially stifling innovation or stepping on anybody’s toes.

Once we have that kind of framework, a license that applies in general terms to all these things will probably follow somewhat naturally, and that has the potential to handle software, hardware, biomass or whatever humans need to possess.

[It should be noted that I strongly oppose the concept of property, wishing rather to regard things as possessions, the difference being the level of authority I assume – I do not need to exert unswerving authority over every moment of, for example, my apartment’s existence as long as I have the ability to use it, in perfect condition, whenever I need it. Any exertion of authority beyond that is a crime unto any society where scarcity is a fact.]

Most innovation done in the world today is being done By the developed world For the developing world, and this is clearly the wrong way to do things. Enabling people running a collective warehouse of digitized objects to demand money from one another for use of their intellectual possessions would only widen the gap between the developing and developed, instead of reversing the innovation cycles and putting the power in the hands of those who need it, which is essentially my end goal.

In the end I came up with two methods of addressing this. On the one hand ask for donations rather than demanding money. The other method was applying a PPP-valency matrix to pricing schemes. Let me coin the term: A PPP-valency matrix is a NxN matrix, V, of the ratios between regional PPP’s (with tr(V) = N, and prod(V) = 2N, by design.).. the concept is to take the “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” mantra and apply it to the actual economy, so the amount of money you get from objects is relative to the ability of people to pay for them. The problem with this method is it’s extremely hard to implement in a way that doesn’t beg for abuse, and after doing a few paper napkin Monte Carlo simulations (yes, I’m a geek), I’ve seen that there’s an inherant feedback loop in this thing that could cause instability in the long run. It can be fixed, but I’m not sure how.”

2 Comments Smári McCarthy on some issues with Open Hardware Licenses

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