OSHWA needs your help

OSHWA is in a pickle! In the US where our not for profit is registered there is a law stating that one third of all income must be from the public, while we have been extremely lucky to have received government grants if we don’t have enough public contributions our status will be revoked.

Today we are launching a merch fundraiser with an incredible design from artist Jess Hannigan that will help us keep going. You can snag your own tee/hoodie/v-neck right here you’ll be helping us maintain our status and any additional funds raised will go right back into making cool things happen in our community!

Thank you for a wonderful OHS2024

The Open Hardware Summit 2024 was a huge success! Thank you Montréal! A giant thanks to our sponsors who make this event possible and enable us to pay our small but mighty staff. Videos are available by speaker on our YouTube channel, or you can relive the whole day here. Photos are on OSHWA’s flickr page.

If you enjoy our events, please consider donating so that we can keep putting them on!

The 2024 Open Hardware Summit

On May 3rd and 4th in Montreal, Canada the Open Source Hardware Organization (OSHWA) will be hosting the 2024 Open Hardware Summit, featuring 2 full days of workshops, talks, unconference and discussion sessions dedicated to exploring Open Source Hardware. If you can’t make it in person, we’re also holding sessions online via YouTube and Discord

Our branding this year was created by Enna Kim, who worked with us to create our 2024 logo as well as a series of characters. We love the playful nature of the loombot, the googly eyed integrated circuit and the tangles of wires that we think reflects what we’re trying to pull off for OHS2024. We want the Summit to be engaging, intriguing, full of surprises and chock full of radical, new ideas. 

Above all else we’re excited to be able to gather together the open source community to explore all the ways that ‘open’ exists!

Here’s the thing: we know it’s a long trip for some of ya’ll. Thankfully we offer many ways to experience the Summit, both in-person in Montreal and online with a fully hybrid conference. We are working hard to be sure that no matter how you attend you will get as much as possible out of OHS2024. With the help of livestreaming, our Discord server and lots of volunteer coordination you can participate in talks, Q&A’s with speakers, propose topics and participate in a digital unconference on Day Two! 

Even though the 3rd and 4th are our official dates we are also excited to have programming around both sides of the conference. 

On May 2nd there will be a mini reuse make-a-thon to practice your recycling skills, plus an open source perfume workshop and a Happy Hardware Hour hosted by Helen Leigh and Crowd Supply

The official Summit will start on May 3rd at Concordia University. 

We are excited to welcome Danielle Boyer, an Indigenous robotics expert, as the keynote speaker. Boyer will be speaking on her work creating robots to revitalize Indigenous languages, and utilizing them to address the systemic oppression of the Anishinaabe community. It’s certain to be a talk that you do not want to miss. 

This is just one of the incredible parts of OHS this year.  

We have also managed to fit in 19 other talks ranging from e-textile manufacturing to making bespoke open hardware for your loved ones to open source medical devices, the topics and quality of the speakers is truly wonderful. 

We also noticed a heavy push to discuss the environmental impacts of making with proposals this year that resulted in talks on repurposing disposable vapes, addressing pollution in hardware production, and developing sustainable biomaterials for 3D printing. 

On top of all that we also have a dedicated table hour where people can explore the very rad offerings like a diy computer repair zine, afrofuturist devices for speculative PTSD treatment, and modding gameboys.

Even though it’s such a full day we know some of ya’ll will still need to let off some steam which means we’re going to have an afterparty where you can hang out, socialize and dance until you are exhausted. 

On Day Two we will be moving to LESPACEMAKER for workshops, unconference and discussion groups. For those joining us IRL workshops range from building robots, finding wi-fi access points to making paper. Make sure you sign up for workshop offerings so you don’t miss out! 

We know that our community loves to explore ideas in-depth and we wanted to be sure there was time for folks to discuss thoughts they had come up over the course of Day One so we’ve got space for discussion groups. 

Plus all Day One both in-person and online attendees can suggest unconference topics that will be voted on in the evening to have sessions running smoothly on Day Two. Unconference topics can really be anything and will have space dedicated to be able to present to one another. 

With that we’ll come to the official close of OHS2024. 

On our unofficial Day 3 we will be gathering at CyberLoveHotel for a relaxing, sharing and zinemaking session. 

All this to say that we really can’t wait to see everyone this year. Please register for the Open Hardware Summit and join us however works for you. You can keep up with all the latest news on OHS2024 online on Twitter, Mastodon and LinkedIn.

2022-2023 OHCA Reflection and Enabling Practices

Thanks to the generous support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, OSHWA took a giant step toward expanding open source hardware in academia with our new Open Hardware Creators in Academia Fellowship. We look forward to expanding future cohorts and the guides or playbooks they will create to advance open hardware within academia.

We released our cohort’s Enabling Practices document, which contains several links and checklists inside the document itself. While creating this document through the lens of shared ‘Best Practices’, the cohort quickly recognized that their University structures, even limited to an American cohort, were so vastly different, that one set of best practices would not suffice. Some academics owned their research and others did not, some had a form of Tech Transfer Office and others did not, many spanned the landscape of positions one could hold at a University. Some had their Dean’s support in open hardware and others did not. Depending on these differences, “best” practices varied drastically.  Some enabling practices may not be a one-size fits all solution, but our fellows and the universities they navigate represent a broad spectrum of American universities. We shifted the terminology to enabling practices to encompass more types of universities, where “best” would imply that one university type would be prioritized with which practices work in that system.

The main take away from these sessions collectively was that there is a difference between the creation of open hardware and the advocacy for open hardware to have a place in academia. These roles took different skill sets to move forward, different verbiage, and worked toward different outputs. These conversations were merely a starting point. There is much discussion over time needed to truly force change for higher education to default to open hardware.

We compiled a list of links and resources this Fellowship created, with newly added cohort documents. There are still several fellows waiting for Journal publication dates as well, so check back for new resources!

Cohort documents:

2023 Open Hardware Summit Talks:

Individual Fellow Outputs:

Welcome Thea Flowers, New OSHWA Board President

I am thrilled to be able to welcome Thea “Stargirl” Flowers as the new OSHWA Board President!

As many members of the OSHWA community already know, Thea is a creative technologist and passionate open source advocate.  She is the creator of the Winterbloom open source synthesizers (many of which are OSHWA certified).  Thea is also the creator of KiCanvas, a maintainer of CircuitPython, and a former Python Software Foundation Fellow.  Oh, and she recently redesigned the certification mark brand guide.

While this marks the end of my tenure as OSHWA Board President, I am excited to remain on the board and support Thea, Alicia, and OSHWA however I can.  I also want to thank Alicia and the OSHWA board(s) for allowing me to serve as Board President for the past few years.  It has been fantastic to be a part of OSHWA’s growth and maturation.

I know the rest of the OSHWA community joins me in celebrating Thea’s new role, and is eager to benefit from the energy and ideas she brings with her.

OSHWA Files Brief in Support of Using, Repairing, and Hacking Things You Own

Earlier this month OSHWA, along with Public Knowledge, the Digital Right to Repair Coalition, Software Freedom Conservancy, iFixIt, and scholars of property and technology law, filed a brief in the US Court of Appeals supporting the principle that owning something means that you get to decide how to use it.  While that principle has been part of US (and, before there was a US, British) law for centuries, recent attempts to protect copyright have worked to undermine it.

We filed the brief in a case that EFF has brought on behalf of Dr. Matthew Green and Dr. bunnie Huang (someone who is well known to the open source hardware community) challenging the constitutionality of parts of the US law that prevent access to digital works.This issue is important to the open source hardware community because owning hardware is a critical part of building and sharing hardware.

The Issue

The case focuses on Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  The DMCA is probably best known for its Section 512 notice and takedown regime for works protected by copyright online (that’s the “DMCA” in a “DMCA Notice” or “DMCA Takedown” that removes videos from YouTube).  Section 1201 is a different part of the law that creates legal protections for digital locks that limit access to copyright-protected works.  

Basically, Section 1201 is a special law that makes it illegal to break DRM.  And as long as DRM prevents you from using your toaster how you see fit, you don’t really own it. 

These protections were originally designed to protect digital media – think the encryption of DVDs.  However, since code is protected by copyright, and just about everything has code embedded in it, the 1201 protections undermine ownership rights in a huge range of things.

The brief illustrates how 1201-protected DRM undermines traditional rules of ownership in a number of different ways:

  • The right to repair: DRM blocks third-party parts or fixes, monopolizing the repair market or forcing consumers to throw away near-working devices.
  • The right to exclude: DRM spies on consumers and opens insecure backdoors on their computers, allowing malicious software to enter from anywhere.
  • The right to use: DRM prevents consumers from using their devices as they wish. A coffee machine’s DRM may prohibit the brewing of other companies’ coffee pods, for example. 
  • The right to possess: Device manufacturers have leveraged DRM to dispossess consumers of their purchases, without legal justification.

The Challenge

This case is challenging Section 1201 on First Amendment grounds.  As written, the law imposes content-based restrictions on speech.  Tools for circumventing DRM can advise users on how and why to protect their property rights.  Prohibiting them means that the law gives legal benefits to anti-ownership DRM software while criminalizing pro-ownership DRM-circumvention software.

Additionally, whatever one thinks about using DRM to protect digital media, the current law is not well tailored to achieve that goal.  Today, DRM has been added to all sorts of devices that are very far from “digital media” in any reasonable sense.  As the brief notes: 

“Devices like refrigerators have [DRM] not to stop rampant refrigerator copyright piracy, but so manufacturers can maintain market dominance, block competition, and force wasteful consumerism that boosts those manufacturers’ bottom lines.”  

These uses of DRM are protected by the current law but have nothing to do with protecting digital media.

What’s Next

This brief is part of an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  It will be argued in the coming months.  EFF’s page on the case is here.

We want to end this post with a huge thank you to Professor Charles Duan, the author of our brief.  Professor Duan does a great job of bringing clarity to this important issue facing the open source hardware community. Plus, you always know any brief written by him will include citations reaching back centuries.  This brief shows that case law reaching back to 1604 is still relevant to questions about ownership today!

2023 Year End Letter

Thank you to each and every one of you for making the decision to share your designs, and be a part of the open hardware ecosystem. We appreciate your hard work and dedication to open source hardware. OSHWA relies on donations from our community to run our organization and push open hardware forward.

2023 brought the in person aspect back to our Open Hardware Summit in NYC, and as always, is still viewable online. Our 2024 Summit will be in Montreal, with talks at Concordia University on May 3 & 4, 2024 with our workshop day on the 4th hosted by lespacemakers! October was Open Hardware Month, we had 1,000 views on our video series for certification, and over 70 new certifications. We have a new shiny logo, which is the first step in our entire website redesign process. Our website redesign will roll out in 2024.

This year we have been collaborating on a policy sprint through the Wilson Center and Federation of American Scientists asking the USPTO to search the OSHWA Certification database for prior art. We also joined forces with GOSH and IOP to cross-post announcements on all of our forums. 

This past year has been an enormous lift for us, as our first round of academic grantees comes to an end. We have published their work on our newly minted Open Hardware Creators in Academia (OHCA) webpage, and there’s more to come including a collaborative document of Enabling Practices for Open Hardware in Academia. The Sloan Foundation has called this program a wild success. We’ll be looking for more funders to enhance Sloan’s support for another round in 2024. If you or someone you know is interested in funding a fellow at the $50,000 level, please email alicia@oshwa.

OSHWA published a new licensing guide for open hardware on our website, to incorporate CERN’s v2 OHL. And speaking of CERN, our Executive Director, Alicia Seidle, was honored to be a keynote speaker at CERN’s inaugural event officially opening their Open Source Program Office (OSPO). 

If you would like to support initiatives like these and vote on who is on the OSHWA board, please consider getting an OSHWA membership. We have a wide range of membership levels, from a discounted level to a lifetime membership. Membership not for you? That’s ok! We also welcome, and greatly appreciate, donations and Open Hardware Summit sponsorships

In addition, OSHWA is looking for grants or donations of $25,000 in support of broadening our Summit Fellowships, and impacting more fellows. If you are interested in giving that level of support, please contact alicia@oshwa.org.

Thank you.

This Giving Tuesday support OSHWA

It’s Giving Tuesday! As a non-profit, OSHWA relies on individual donations to run our organization and push open hardware forward. Donations run our programs, such as the OSHWA Certification, Open Hardware Month in October, the Open Hardware Summit, builds out our resources for the community, contributes to a new website for OSHWA, and keeps our lights on! There are many ways to give, through general donations, membership or sponsorship. We have over 2500 certifications, and that doesn’t cover our entire community, if every person who certified gave $20 for each certification, that would be $50,000 for OSHWA. We appreciate every donation, large or small. If you need to talk to someone about your donation please email: info@oshwa.org

Please include OSHWA in your giving plans this season: https://oshwa.org/donate/

OSHWA updates hardware licensing guidelines

Many things have changed in the hardware licensing landscape since we published our guidelines as a set of best practices for how to share hardware designs efficiently. If you visit them today, you will see that we updated the content under the “Licensing your Designs” section. The biggest change is that we are now describing four different licensable elements of open hardware: hardware, design files, documentation, and software. “Design files” as a separate element is a new addition to that list.  This short post explains the rationale for the changes.

Why Change?

One key factor is the increasing use of version 2 of the CERN Open Hardware Licence for sharing hardware designs under any of the three usual regimes: permissive, weakly reciprocal or strongly reciprocal. The CERN OHL v2 is the only license approved by the Open Source Initiative which was drafted with the specificities of hardware in mind. It is also the recommended license to host hardware designs on GitHub and other platforms.

Another important development is the exponential growth of open-source gateware (FPGA or ASIC designs using Hardware Description Languages) fueled by the RISC-V revolution. For those preferring a reciprocal sharing regime, there was no adequate license in this realm, and the use of traditional software licenses quickly showed a number of issues. The reciprocal variants of CERN OHL v2 filled that gap.

Modern hardware licenses all include patent license clauses in their text. They provide reassurance to licensees that any patents held by the licensor covering the hardware design are licensed to them alongside the other rights in the design. The new guidelines reflect this important trend.

Finally, there has been a persistent source of confusion since the early days of open-source hardware licensing, namely the difference between licensing the hardware designs and licensing the resulting hardware. 

The New Guidance

The new guidelines provide clarity by separating the hardware itself from hardware designs.  You can think of this as the difference between a PCB you are holding in your hand and a KiCad file, or a mechanical device and the schematic for that device.  This distinction can become especially important in situations where the designs are eligible for copyright protection, but the hardware itself is not.

The new guidelines also provide a set of best practices to be applied for different types of hardware. The resources on licensing in the OSHWA certification site will be updated shortly to remain compatible with the new guidelines and reflect this shift to a four-pronged approach to licensing, covering:

  • the hardware itself,
  • the hardware design files,
  • the documentation around the hardware, including e.g. user manuals and explanatory materials,
  • any software related to or running in that hardware.

Please read the new guidelines and let us know in the forums if anything is unclear or if you have any comments, requests, corrections, etc. Happy sharing!