[License-discuss] Open Source and the extension of copyright

Bruce Perens bruce at perens.com
Thu Jan 31 18:09:58 UTC 2019

I think it's important to make a point about the extension of copyright. In
the case of Open Hardware, licenses are crafted which intend to copyright
not only schematics (which are functional things and thus not
copyrightable) but the *implementations of hardware from those schematics.*

This is an obvious extension of copyright law beyond where it has been
applied so far. The risk in such a thing is that courts could consider it
valid, going along with the innovation of industry as they often do, and
then suddenly copyright would be applied to every schematic in a book, and
electronic designs which we today copy with impunity, and we'd have to
license all of our schematics everywhere.

This would have a tremendous stifling effect on the practice of
electronics, especially by individuals and non-profit groups such as the
Open Hardware projects themselves.

This is why I abandoned work on Open Hardware licensing.

In addition, I think there's a principle here. Extension of copyright is
bad for Open Source, even if it helps us enforce our licenses more
effectively. It will always work against us to a greater extent that it can
be put to work for us.


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