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Re: changes made/thanks (re hardware designs)
[I hope this is ok, but I have cc-ed this reply to the hardlicense-discuss
mailing list. If as a result that mailing list fills up with cross-posts
on non-hardware related topics, I will limit posting to that list to
subscribers. This is having seen the results of the last flame-fest started
by this topic...]
> You initially seemed to do the same thing--to criticize us for that
> position we do not hold. I don't think that bad writing could explain
> it. I think that you really had the idea that the FSF is hostile to
> the idea of free hardware designs.
> Can you figure out why you had that idea? If you figure out why you
> did, perhaps you can understand why these other people have done that;
> perhaps that understanding would enable you to explain the truth about
> us to them.
I was unsure whether your guess about my reaction probably being
shared was correct, so I mailed some people. On the basis of a grand
total of 2(!) replies, yes, my reaction probably is a common one.
There are two concerns:
The first is a difference of opinion, concerning the importance of
free hardware design (especially compared with software). One person
'Against his article is the point that this, exactly!, is about freedom and
not about low cost.'
We already discussed this topic, and although I don't agree with you
I do believe you have a perfectly reasonable position on this - and that
in any case the difference is partly empirical, and so may change with
time and events. This part I think I can try to explain to others :-).
The other concern is over your statement concerning copyright, but it does
link to the first concern. If some people believe that freedom in
relation to hardware designs is important, then it is natural for them
to want to find a way to license designs in a way that will achieve
as close an effect as possible to the gpl. Given that the legal situation
for software/hardware designs is not identical, it may well be that the
gpl itself cannot be used, but another method has to be found.
Alternatively, it might be that some aspects of hardware designs
could be effectively copylefted, while others could not. However,
your very short statement concerning copyright in the article gives
the impression that you consider further analysis of the problem
pointless. This is further confused by the sentence 'Copylefting HDL
definitions and printed circuit layouts may do some good nonetheless'. What
good can it do if it has no legal basis? If it has no basis in law, then
surely public domain would be better, since it does not cause any
limitations on combining designs for people wishing to honour the
original designers wishes. IMO, the result of your
article combined with recent events has been even more confusion
than there was before.
-The European Space Agency has released its VHDL designs (not just simulations,
but for synthesis) for a SPARC processor under the gpl. Presumably
you consider this pointless? Or it does some (unspecified) good? I don't
know if the ESA didn't see your article, didn't agree with it, or
simply believe that your statements were correct regarding PCB design
but not in relation to HDLs or core designs.
-Sun have released their SPARC and picoJava designs under a version of
the SCSL. Its most certainly not a free license - but presumably it
implies that Sun's lawyers believe copyright can have some effect
(I'm not sure how much trade secrets/contract law are also being used
to underpin this license).
-Two groups producing free hardware designs have stalled release of their
designs but will probably make them public domain. In the light of
your statement that 'copylefting ... may do some good nonetheless'
its unclear whether you would consider this a)a step in the wrong
direction b) the only possibility to make legal sense, or
c)without any importance.
The full paragraph was:
Circuits cannot be copylefted because they cannot be
copyrighted. Definitions of circuits written in HDL
(hardware definition languages) can be copylefted, but
the copyleft covers only the expression of the definition,
not the circuit itself. Likewise, a drawing or layout of a
circuit can be copylefted, but this only covers the drawing
or layout, not the circuit itself. What this means is that
anyone can legally draw the same circuit topology in a
different-looking way, or write a different HDL definition
which produces the same circuit. Thus, the strength of
copyleft when applied to circuits is limited. However,
copylefting HDL definitions and printed circuit layouts
may do some good nonetheless.
Your recent reply to the openip group's license seems to suggest you may
have dropped the 'may do some good' aspect of your views; you wrote:
>This draft license has a fundamental problem, in that it tries to
>cover activities that copyright does not apply to: building hardware
>from a schematic. Copyright does not apply to circuits.
But as the article said, copyright does apply to schematics, even though
in a limited way. Without wanting to go into the details of that
particular license, the fact that copyright does not apply to building
hardware is a red herring. The gpl also does not attempt to cover
the activity of compiling a (modified or not) program; but if I distribute
the compiled software, the gpl makes me distribute (or provide a pointer to)
the source code. It is this particular effect it would be good to duplicate
for designs. I understand that the ability to
enforce this with copyright law is limited, but it seems to me that
a) it is not nonexistent, and it would be useful to have more idea
of which aspects of hardware designs it is least limited for, and
b) there might be other ways than copyright law to achieve this.
I think it would be a shame to kill off all discussion of this topic as
fruitless in advance; I don't think that was your intention; but I do
think your article has been read that way ('Stallman dixit..'). This
is not the same as believing you to be hostile to free hardware designs,
or that it is any kind of reponsibility of the FSF to work on design