There is still no usable open hardware license

After describing in detail each attribute that a open hardware license should have, each being a specific decision to be made by the open hardware vendor and community, Matt from the Liquidware Antipasto blog concludes that there is still no useful open hardware license:

(The excerpt below is part of a series introducing a Open Source Hardware Economics book the author is writing.)

“Attributes are not clear cut, and they are not all created equal. Some are not enforceable, because it would be impossible to determine, practically speaking, whether someone is violating that term. Other attributes are simply not enforceable because they may be inconsistent with government permissible activity. Violating the terms may be punishable by imprisonment, or fines, or a slap on the wrist depending on your jurisdiction and the severity of the penalty. Strictly speaking, in the US, it is only “illegal” to violate trademark, copyright, and patent law.

Once a framework like this is outlined, a logical next question is, “what constitutes the most open source” set of rights? No matter what anyone says, there is no simple, straightforward answer to this question. It depends on the audience, the target, and the nature of the work. This is a topic of significance on many web forums, where the debate has been waged for years. As you no doubt can tell, this is an emotionally charged issue.

There are “open source” licenses of various flavors, but they tend to address the narrow domain of the file itself, and get fuzzy when it comes to what can be done with that file, how it can be put to use, what it can be used for, or not. Some licenses are better than others, some explicitly address the attributes and dimensions above, while other licenses brush over the surface, skip, ignore, or only briefly touch on the dimensions. This can create ambiguity, and ambiguous contracts breed abuse and hurt feelings.

It is the author’s opinion that none of the current “open source” licenses properly covers “open source hardware” to a sufficient quality standard to be used in a widespread way. Instead, most of the open source hardware licenses in wide use today are merely repurposed open source software licenses! This is a serious problem.”

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