TAPR Open Hardware License

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OHL or also called the TAPR Open Hardware License (also called: Tucson Amateur Packet Radio Noncommercial Hardware License)


From http://www.tapr.org/OHL.

You can download pdf versions of the proposed licenses through this site.

"The TAPR Open Hardware License ("OHL") provides a framework for hardware projects that is similar to the one used for Open Source software. This isn't as straight-forward as it seems because legal concepts that work well for software (such as copyright and copyleft) don't neatly fit when dealing with hardware products and the documentation used to create them. The OHL deals with Documentation, which describes a project using elements such as schematic diagrams, CAD/CAM files, and Gerber files, and Products which are based on that Documentation.

Like open source software licenses, the OHL permits Documentation to be used, modified, and distributed to third parties. Unlike software licenses, it also addresses how Products based on the documentation can be made and distributed. The OHL's requirements are aimed at encouraging the community to develop, use, and improve open source hardware -- and to prevent others from turning that hardware into closed, proprietary products.

The OHL does not address software, nor does it address firmware or code loaded into programmable devices such as FPGAs. These fit much more closely into a software licensing model than do the physical objects that the OHL attempts to cover, and we encourage developers to use open source licenses like the GPL for them.

One important, and unique, component of the OHL is a patent immunity provision. In short, the OHL requires each person who uses the Documentation to promise that they will not sue others who make Products based on that Documentation for infringement of any patent they control. This ensures that the community is protected from patent claims by those who benefit from the community's contribution.

Another unique aspect of the OHL is a provision to provide feedback about modifications. Open source software licenses steer away from obligating those who make modifications to pass those changes back to earlier developers or other users. For a number of reasons, particularly our belief that hardware fixes and improvements, especially for safety issues, should be made known to those who may be making or using Products, we felt that a public feedback provision would be valuable.

At the same time, we wanted to minimize the burden of such a provision, and the loss of privacy that would result from requiring developers to provide their email addresses. So, TAPR will provide a mechanism to report modifications to a central archive that will be visible to anyone. The requirement is structured so that if the mechanism fails (if, for example, TAPR should disappear), the rights granted by the OHL will not be affected.

The Open Hardware License allows Products to be used for any purpose. An alternative version, the TAPR Noncommercial Hardware License, is identical to the OHL but limits Products to noncommercial use only. While open source licenses normally don't allow restrictions on use, there is a big difference between software and hardware that we believe justifies offering this option.

While there is no real cost in compiling or copying open source software, someone who wants to make Products available to others confronts upfront costs of making circuit boards and obtaining parts. It's often cost-prohibitive to do this in small quantity, so the developer who wants to make his or her Product available, even on a non-profit basis, has to make a substantial up-front investment. That investment is at risk if others can compete commercially with him. The Noncommercial Hardware License addresses this concern. " (http://www.tapr.org/OHL)

Context and Commentary

From Instructables at http://www.instructables.com/forum/EEMFZXN1G5EXCFLKHF/

"Recently, people over at tapr.org released drafts of open-source hardware licenses. I got the following message from Jonathan Kuniholm at Duke asking for comments on the drafts: "I have spoken with each of you regarding our interest in the infrastructure for the sharing of hardware designs. An organization with its roots in amateur radio and open source software has released a draft of two open hardware licenses ( http://www.tapr.org/OHL ). I believe that the inspiration is primarily electronic hardware, but the concept addresses issues we have encountered in our work with The Open Prosthetics Project and its parent organization, the newly incorporated Shared Design Alliance.

We have been interested in the ways that we might protect those who choose to share designs for public good from the possibility of having those designs patented out from under them or otherwise removed from the public domain, as well as helping them avoid the cost and time delays of patent protection for efforts from which they are not trying to profit. These draft licenses also address liability issues, which are another can of worms. I would be interested to hear thoughts from folks more knowledgeable than I about the effectiveness and potential pitfalls of such measures, given the difference between the issues surrounding physical designs and patents (for which there is currently no open license option outside of patent-related measures), and those surrounding items traditionally protected by copyright, which can currently be released under Creative Commons or GNU licenses ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ , http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html , http://www.fsf.org/ ).

The TAPR folks have invited comment on their draft, and I think that this is as good an effort as I've seen so far. If you have interest or expertise in this area, please submit comments through the TAPR site, and please forward this to anyone else you know who may be interested." (http://www.instructables.com/forum/EEMFZXN1G5EXCFLKHF/)



"In 2007, TAPR created the first open hardware license. The Tucson Amateur Packet Radio Corporation (TAPR), founded in 1982, is a non-profit organization of amateur radio operators with the goals of supporting R&D efforts in the area of amateur digital communications, disseminating information on packet and digital communications, providing affordable and useful kits for experimenters and hobbyists, pursuing and helping advance the amateur art of communications, and supporting publications, meetings, and standards in the area of amateur digital communications. As part of its role in supporting groups of amateurs working on digital communications projects, TAPR offers help in turning concepts into reproducible designs and making them available as kits or finished products to others. In 2005, TAPR began working with one such group, which was developing high performance software defined radio products and wanted to contribute their free time and expertise to the ham radio community (Ackermann 2009). The group feared that their efforts might be co-opted by commercial entities and therefore asked for TAPR’s assistance in developing a license to achieve their goals (Ackermann 2009)⁠. The result was the TAPR Open Hardware License, the first hardware-specific open source license." (http://www.oshwa.org/research/brief-history-of-open-source-hardware-organizations-and-definitions/)

More Information

See the entries on Open Hardware, Open Design and Open Source Hardware