OSHW Quick Reference Guide

The Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) has developed a Quick Reference Guide for open source hardware.

The folder contains:

- a checklist for opening your project

- a May and Must poster to remind the community of what must be done to consider a project open hardware and what other options you may use.

- a folder of many different file types of the open source hardware logo.

- a copy of the open source hardware definition and best practices

- a “What is Open Source Hardware” infographic

You can find the Google drive folder here: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_f25OKVb0TCb3BKQ053RV9DcU0&usp=sharing

If you find this useful, please consider contributing to OSHWA through membership or donation!


On Creative Commons and Open Source

When you ask someone what license they are using for their open source hardware project, you’re quite likely to hear the answer “Creative Commons.”  And unfortunately, that doesn’t fully answer the question.

The reason is that there is not a single entity called the “Creative Commons license.” Rather, Creative Commons offers a number of different licenses that can apply some rights and protections to your work, including the CC-BY and CC-BY-SA licenses which reflect open source values closely.  In the 2012 and 2013 surveys these licenses were, in fact, the most popular licenses used for open source hardware documentation. (Creative Commons licenses cannot be applied to the hardware itself.)

Creative Commons also offers licenses that carry restrictions — against commercial use and/or derivative works — that are strictly incompatible with open source¹.  The open source hardware definition states that a license for open source hardware “[...] shall allow for the manufacture, sale, distribution, and use of products created from the design files, the design files themselves, and derivatives thereof.” Thus, if you choose to release hardware under the banner of “open source,” that means that you agree to allow others to use your design commercially, as well as to create derivative works (and to use them commercially). Consequently, you cannot advertise your project or product as “open source” if it carries restrictions against either of those uses.

To enumerate the particulars, the following licenses are compatible with open source values:

  1. Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)
  2. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)
  3. Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

While the following licenses carry restrictions that are not compatible with open source:

  1. Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)
  2. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)
  3. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (CC BY-NC-ND)
  4. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)

Here are some more resources about the issue of NC and open source:

To continue the discussion we’ve also posted this topic in the forums.

¹The Open Source Hardware Definition itself is a derivative work of the Open Source Definition (for software), and its language regarding commercial use and derivatives of OSHW is directly adapted from the language in the software context. Restrictions against commercial use and/or derivative works are incompatible with open source hardware, and also incompatible with open source software.

How to Host a Symposium with your Congressperson

DSC_0839Photo credit: Aleph Objects, Inc.
CC BY SA 4.0

The Front Range Open Source Hardware Symposium was a success! The purpose of the event was to educate the public about open source hardware. Ten open source companies (Sparkfun, Lulzbot, Open Tech Collaborative, Road Narrows RoboticsModrobotics with their open manufacturing system, Great Scott Gadgets, Cryptotronix, Pcduino, Sparky’s Widgets, and representation from Mach 30) were present along with around 50 attendees. We had an excellent discussion with House of Representatives Congressman Jared Polis. The main topic brought to the attention of Congressman Polis was that innovation moves faster with open source hardware which is why it is important as in IP alternative. Many people also voiced the need for more openness in publicly funded research to enhance the copy-ability of experiments and use open source hardware alternatives within the education system for the benefit of transparency and longevity. There was also mention of the inhibiting cost that some governmental regulations can have on open source hardware. And Jared Polis voiced his concern about making sure open source hardware stays accessible and open in the face of new IP reform. You don’t take our word for the success of the event, Here’s a write up from Aaron Harper.

We wanted to share the process for inviting a member of Congress / government official to speak with the open hardware community where  you live. While OSHWA can not currently help with funding these events, we can assist by sharing fliers, email copy and the information that it takes to host an event.

1. Contact your representative to ask if they would be willing to participate in an event talking with the open source hardware community. Schedule a time (be prepared to wait a few months for a time slot). Check with their office that the signage for your event is appropriate and notify them of the location.

2. Set up a way to RSVP (we used Eventbrite), and promote the event. The event should be a public event to educate the public about open source hardware. OSHWA can include your Open Hardware Symposium with your congressperson on our events page and mailing list.

3. Communicate with the people involved, those asking to show their open source hardware projects and your congressperson (or their staffers). Here is a copy of the logistics email sent and the agenda email.

4. Contact OSHWA to mail you fliers [flier 1, flier 2]: info@oshwa.org

5. Rent tables, chairs, and venue if needed. We had snacks because of the time of the event. You may also need to purchase power strips and extension cords if the venue does not provide those. You may want to ask the open source hardware companies in attendance to assist with the costs. Here is the break down of this event’s costs:

Venue $225
Table/Chair Rental $178
Ice, beverages, snacks $130
Total: $533

6. Thank people for coming, tell everyone what open source hardware is, remind people to stay respectful and on topic, and start your discussion! If you need help along the way, don’t hesitate to contact info@oshwa.org


Open Hardware Summit 2014: ROME

We are thrilled to announce the Open Source Hardware Association’s annual Open Hardware Summit: the Fifth annual Summit will be held September 30, 2014 and October 1, 2014 in Rome, Italy.


It is intended as a community to discuss and draw attention to the rapidly growing Open Source Hardware movement on a global scale. The Summit is a venue to present, discuss, and learn about open hardware of all kinds. The summit examines open hardware and its relation to other issues, such as software, design, business, law, and education. It is the one time a year which the community can come together.

Why Europe? We felt it was important after receiving feedback from community outside of the United States to bring the Summit to a larger global audience. The Open Hardware Summit this year will be held in parallel with the Innovation Week in Rome. This will give attendants the opportunity to attend multiple events in a relatively short period of time in the city. Last but not least, thanks to the collaboration with Rome’s Innovation Week we will be able to make the fifth Open Hardware Summit an open event with no admittance fee. We hope this choices will help bring more attention and cooperation to the key topics of open source hardware and open manufacturing.


Pablo Garcia demos the Neolucida at the 2013 Open Hardware Summit.

In line with this effort towards inclusion and global reach the Open Source Hardware Association will in addition be launching and leading a Session at the Upcoming OuiShare Fest in Paris to announce its expansion and plans to open international branches.
The call for talks and workshops for the Open Hardware Summit is forthcoming at 2014.oshwa.org and will serve to bring inspiration from several key Open Hardware leaders to the community. The call will also be an opportunity to propose workshops and co-creative sessions that can produce knowledge and action in the community.

OHS 2013 at MIT

OHS 2013 at MIT

OSHWA launches International Branches plans at OuiShare Fest 14 in Paris

Later on this May, OSHWA will be leading a Session at the Upcoming OuiShare Fest in paris.

OuiShare Fest is a conference about the collaborative economy that will feature sessions ranging from cooperatives to shared mobility, from p2p travel to collaborative finance, from Open Value Networks to Open Source Hardware and more. As I’m also being OuiShare Fest program fellow, I really thought this was an amazing opportunity to connect with the European community. Indeed OuiShare Fest has many amazing open source hardware projects featured such as Open Source Beehives, P2P Food Lab, OSVehicle and more.

Addie and I will participate and co-moderate a session that will be dedicated to potential solutions to scale OSHWA impact and, in general, awareness on the Open Source Hardware topic in Europe.

For this occasion, we are also releasing with you for the first version of the OSHWA BRANCHING CHAPTER: there you can find the vision and the duties when creating an OSHWA branch in your city or country.

We basically require three members to kick off a branch that puts together some community engagement and education program.

At the OuiShare Fest we will likely announce the formation of the first three or more new European branches (Italy, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain and France are already working on it) so we really look forward to get your feedback and see if we can finally be able to announce more, or just put you in touch with the upcoming branch leaders.

So if you’re interested to evaluate and eventually kickoff an official Open Source Hardware Association branch in your city, please fill in this form here and EXPRESS YOUR INTEREST TO CREATE A OSHWA BRANCH.

If you’re interested to join OuiShare Fest we have a special – limited number – 20% discount for OSHWA community that you can ask by getting in touch directly with me (mail to Simone at Ouishare dot net)!

An analysis of Open Source Hardware Community Survey 2013

I had some time to look into the interesting data coming out of our 2013 Survey (you can find all the raw data here):

As you may know, just few weeks ago OSHWA published the results from 2013 Open Hardware Community survey. You can find original datasheets and everything here. Despite raw data is good, I thought it was good to spend some time looking at the data trying to gather more insights, when possible, still keeping in mind that the survey samples a very limited and polarized (OSHWA centric) chunk of the community. But we need to start from something in a way.

Full post is available here: A Look into the Open Source Hardware Community | Open Electronics.


An Interview with the recently appointed OSHWA President Gabriella Levine

I had the chance to interview newly appointed President of OSWHA Gabriella Levine for Open Electronics magazine. A cool interview with a focus on OSHWA plans and major challenges in Open Source Hardware.

An excerpt:

Few words about OSHWA plans, in detail

[SC] What are the overall plans for OSHWA in 2014 – 2015 under your presidency?

[GL]First of all, work on standardization. The definition states what is Open Hardware, but I believe that there needs to be more documentation for people to turn to in order to know HOW to release their work. What are the best ways to release hardware and what are the standards for documentation? There is a lot of work happening on this (especially by Catarina Mota, David Mellis, and Limor Fried). See OSHWA’s “best practices” and Adafruit’s “Open Source Hardware Overview”.

I think of OSHWA’s initiatives is to produce some available documents, like a standard toolkit for releasing open source hardware, that can help companies and individuals understand some of the confusion and loose definitions. One example might be a “laundry list” that can allow companies producing products to document all of the hardware components for that product and how they are licensed.

OSHWA is increasing its public presence, in order to educate people and companies about the fact that there is indeed the option of open source hardware, to clear up some confusion surrounding the definition, to promote OSHWA as a resource for providing support and education and to represent the community. This public awareness will come from planned workshops, educational events, and an international summit this year.

OSHWA will continue to work together and with some advice from attorneys who are open to discussing some of the legal options and licenses available, compile some clarifying documents that can help companies and individual see what some legal options are available for producing and distributing open source hardware.

OSHWA also is in the planning to continue to conduct business surveys to provide data about open source hardware companies, as well as lead more educational programs and summits, possibly including an Open Manufacturing Summit.


2013 Survey data is posted!

In 2013 OSHWA conducted a survey of the international open source hardware community, which received 1,007 responses. We’ve shared the aggregate results! You can download the master files, or use the graphs we’ve created. A big thanks to our Research Chair, Catarina Mota, for making the survey and the data possible.

The survey results can be found under our Research tab (along with data from 2012), or simply follow this link: http://www.oshwa.org/oshw-community-survey-2013/

OSHWA presents on Open Source Hardware, Washington DC Jan 2014

Some of the basics of Open Source Hardware, the landscape, history and implications are covered in the attached article, written as a collaboration between Alicia and myself.

PDF attached , text below.

(The the full journal touched on the landscape of OSHW in various sectors of tech innovation and how a shifting paradigm in entrepreneurship might affect corporations, innovators, and policy makers). Email me (gabriella.levine@gmail.com) if you’d like to read a copy.

And here are the slides from the presentation.


“Broadening the Open Source Landscapes: Insights from OSHWA”

A. What is Open Source Hardware? Open Source Hardware is an alternative to the patent IP structure. As the communally written and accepted definition states, “Open source hardware is hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell the design or the hardware based on that design. The hardware’s source, ie. the design from which it is made, is available in the best format for making modifications to it. The formats can include CAD designs, electronic schematics, source code, technical drawings, and photo / video documentation. Ideally, open source hardware uses readily-available components and materials, standard processes, open infrastructure, unrestricted content, and open-source design tools to maximize the ability of individuals to make and use hardware. Open source hardware gives people the freedom to control their technology while sharing knowledge and encouraging commerce through the open exchange of designs.” See this video for further explanation.

More fields in industry, design and technology are adopting the Open Hardware definition as part of their missions and values, broadening the landscape of source files available for use. Open-source hardware has been applied to electronics, fashion, furniture, musical instruments, bio-engineering and much more. A few specific examples follow, though there are many more open source projects and too many to list. See here for a growing list of Open Hardware projects. Arduino, a microcontroller and (Integrated Developer Environment) IDE software platform developed for hobbyists to make electronic prototypes, has expanded the world of hardware development from electrical engineers to artists, hobbyists, and even youth. Open Hardware projects range from industrial machines [open source ecology], 3d printers [RepRap], environmental disaster relief efforts [Protei, Open Relief], space programs [DIY Space Exploration, Mach30], and underwater robotics [openROV].

The Open Source Hardware Association, referred to as OSHWA, is a pending 501(c)3 non-profit to educate people about open-source hardware, collect data from the community, and voice community standards. OSHWA aims to represent the Open Hardware movement, globally.

B. INNOVATING BASED ON MODELS: Technology has always been innovated based on other people’s successes, from the discovery that the earth was round, to the invention of the telephone, steam engine, or airplane. Although patent laws were originally designed to protect inventors’ ideas and benefit the public good, today patents constrain further innovation. Open Source is founded upon the belief that the more designs and processes can be open and shared, the quicker that innovation can happen. Open source hardware generally benefits the consumer because it enables the consumer to test, alter, iterate upon the product, thereby allowing for competition within the free market.

There are many examples of successful businesses openly sharing software, such as Mozilla and Linux, but the rise of the Open Hardware trend is beginning. This growing trend is founded in the belief that sharing ideas, designs, and methodologies can bring technological innovation and manufacturing mainstream on local and global scales, making it easier to engineer new solutions to complex problems. Open Hardware projects that facilitate free sharing of documentation, source code, and CAD designs, are an approach to proliferate innovation.

C. HOW TO CREATE OPEN SOURCE HARDWARE: Open-source hardware depends on proliferating technology through sharing the documentation and source files needed to build and modify your hardware. As the open-source hardware definition explains, one must document the complete and preferable versions of the files for a design, rather than an intermediate or obfuscated version. For mechanical components and physical designs, it is the original CAD files. For circuit boards, it is the original schematic and board layout files.  The Open Hardware community has generated a list of Best Practices pertaining to documenting and sharing work related to a piece of hardware so that others can use and modify the work.

Unfortunately, a technology that attempts to be Open will often incorporate original design files for hardware that are in proprietary formats from expensive software tools because the open source equivalent software does not exist. In this case, it’s helpful and encouraged to offer versions of the design in alternative or intermediate formats that can be viewed or edited with common or free programs. For example, PDFs of circuit schematics, Gerbers for circuit board layouts, and IGES or STL files for mechanical objects. These allow people without access to expensive or proprietary software to make use of your design as best possible. However, releasing the original files as well defines the core of open-source hardware practice.

Many individuals and companies that produce open-source hardware publish their design files on their website when the product goes on sale (for example, Arduino). Others store their files in online version control systems (e.g. GitHub or Google Code), so that they are public throughout the design and development process. This is a choice that businesses or individuals make. Further, there are websites specifically designed for sharing hardware designs, like Thingiverse and Instructables.

If the inventor adheres to the open source hardware definition, then he / she may use the open hardware logo to denote to the community that their project is open and the source files are publicly available.

D. WHO PRODUCES OPEN SOURCE HARDWARE AND WHY COLLABORATION IS VITAL: The open source hardware community is made up of a diverse set of people and backgrounds. People from the open source hardware community categorize themselves as: DIY-ers, engineers, makers, hackers, artists, and activists, and often a combination of several of the previously listed items. Communities of these people participate in the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) movement, the rise of makerspaces/hackerspaces (places where like-minded people get together and invent things usually based in science, tech, and art), the Maker movement, and the open source hardware movement. Similar to the sharing ethos that occurs in makerspaces and the maker and DIY culture, the Open Source Hardware movement began as a way for people to share information and documentation for fabricating hardware. Through the proliferation of information, building up other’s code and designs, several companies and open source hardware projects have branched from other open source hardware projects, thus being the result of knowledge and skillshare that happens in collaborative work facilities.

In 2012 a survey was conducted by OSHWA to collect data about the community. The full results can be found on our website. Another survey is currently ongoing for 2013. The 2012 survey had 2000 participants, although this is not representative of all the people in the open source hardware community. The 2012 survey found that 44% of the participants were using open source hardware for their jobs/careers. Only 14% of participants reported that none of their income comes from building open source hardware, while 86% of participants make some or all of their income from open source hardware. 52% reported living in the USA, though this number could be high as the survey was in English, and US-centric despite our best efforts to outreach beyond USA.

E. WHY GO OPEN? Patents were created to incentivize inventors and spur innovation in exchange for 20 years of exclusive rights in the form of a monopoly. The patentee has to disclose how their innovation was created to the public. In today’s patent system, money made from patents is going to lawyers rather than the inventor, and a twenty year monopoly is not a realistic timeframe for the pace of technology innovation in the digital era. The barriers and frustrations that the patent system has created is veering inventors to adopt a new alternative to patents: open source hardware. It is vastly easier to innovate on a technology which is open and the source files are publicly available, at no cost. Open source hardware creates products not driven by building monopolies but driven by capitalistic pursuits and technological innovation in an open environment. This type of sharing information leads to powerful opportunities for companies and individuals to learn from each other.

To further illustrate these ideals, Nathan Seidle, former board member of OSHWA and open hardware business owner of SparkFun Electronics, was invited to testify to the House Subcommittee on the IP Reform happening in congress6. He uses open source hardware rather than patents because his products are innovated within weeks, rather than years. His products also get copied and reproduced by consumers and users. Patented works also get copied, but Seidle reports that is more lucrative to out-innovate a copied product rather than litigate.

Rather than esteeming the value of intellectual property, open source hardware companies value a large community using, sharing and making daughter products or derivative products, working towards a common goal of bettering the world of electronics and prototyping tools.

 Individuals and companies value open source hardware to make it more accessible and attainable by a broader audience. Additionally, open source hardware piggybacks off the DIY movement by valuing giving others the design files to “build it themselves and fix it when it is broken”.  A third reason people find it beneficial to open source hardware aligns with the DIY &  maker ethics, valuing the ability to control, alter and personalize the items which one owns. As products swing back to personalization from mass market goods, open source hardware makes personalization of goods possible. Not only does personalization benefit the consumer, but the fact that companies can build off of, curate, and improve other open source hardware products also means the consumer is getting a better product. Inventors are creating the marketplace and alternate IP system that they want to be part of.

F. Future of Open Source Hardware: OSHWA hosts the annual Open Hardware Summit. Each year this event continues to grow by a few hundred people, and the people attending and sponsoring come from bigger and bigger businesses. Open source hardware tools are now making it to mainstream market, such as an open source laser cutter (such as LaserSaur) and an open source jigsaw14. This is a new advancement in the open source hardware landscape. Along with these new advancements and growth within our community, we recognize that people want more options for their hardware, even in the niche of open source hardware. OSHWA is looking to develop a laundry label type of labeling system that would graphically represent which parts of a project were open source (for example, the mechanicals, the electronics, the process, etc.), which parts can be easily fixed if broken, which parts can be recycled, which parts have instructions for troubleshooting, etc. As Open Hardware increases the options that inventors have when releasing their technologies, we hope to grow the number innovations using open source hardware as well as continue to relay the benefits of open source hardware to the general public.


1. http://www.oshwa.org/definition/

2. the history of oshw organizations and definitions

3. http://www.oshwa.org/sharing-best-practices/

5. Adafruit The many layers of open source hardware: definitions, licenses, challenges, and debates http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2009/03/28/open-source-hardware-overview-slides/

6.Testimony of Nathan Seidle, Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet U.S. House of Representatives: http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/113th/08012013/080113%20Testimony%20-%20Seidle.pdf

Creative Commons License
This blog post by Gabriella Levine prepared for OSHWA.org is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

So feel free to use any of the following info for describing or writing on Open Source Hardware.