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Is OpenBuilds itself Open Source?

Discussion in 'General Talk' started by Thomas Miller, Mar 21, 2018.

  1. Thomas Miller

    Thomas Miller Well-Known
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    I want to make sure when I refer to OpenBuilds in a publication regarding my build to an open-source hardware based journal that I write about them correctly, i.e. the difference between "open source hardware vendor" versus "open source community supporting hardware vendor" or something like that, nothing slanderous, just getting verbiage correct.
    There's a lot about supporting open source builds on the OpenBuilds site but I can't find info about what licensing or patents OpenBuilds holds on its own in-house product designs, i.e. the parts themselves, not assemblies ("Builds") of their parts. Is it just the product name trademarks they hold as protected (understandably so)?

    I tried asking OpenBuilds Support last week, got what felt like a bit of a question dodge answer, or maybe I'm just not asking the right question. Since it's a innocent question that should have a simple answer I'll just ask here since one of y'all probably also know.

    I'll post my email here for the sake of full context.

    Thanks :)

    ME:
    Hello! I'm in the process of writing a research article which includes a system which uses a fair amount of your hardware as well as the 3D models of your hardware and I want to make sure I get things right when I refer to OpenBuilds in my writing since the publication I am writing for focuses specifically on builds which are open-source. The materials used don't necessarily have to be open-source but the build itself does.

    My question for you is when I refer to OpenBuilds in my writing I want to make sure I understand the licensing correctly with regard to products that you've designed in-house.

    Put bluntly, 'Is OpenBuilds Open Source'?

    You note that "OpenBuilds Parts Store is the Leader in Open Source Hardware Distribution" among other things but I cannot find any specific licensing information for your products. I do see that in the CAD models it is noted under the "Ownership" clause that you retain full copyright of all the IP.

    Just want to make sure I attribute things and write my paper correctly, as to whether OpenBuilds is "open source" or "parts FOR open source builds" and which type of license you hold on the items.


    Thanks for the clarification!

    OB:
    Hello. Thank you so much for including the OpenBuilds system in your research paper.

    We are a proud contributors to the Open Source community. All OpenBuilds Builds are released Open Source under the Attribution - Share-Alike (CC BY-SA) License.


    Thank You,

    ME:
    I certainly found that OpenBuilds *Builds* are open source licensed, i.e. assemblies of OpenBuilds parts showcased by yourselves and the community.

    I am specifically asking if OpenBuilds own parts designs are Open Source.

    Thomas
     
    #1 Thomas Miller, Mar 21, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2018
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  2. Wareagle

    Wareagle Well-Known
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    I'm not a patent/trademark attorney (or any kind of attorney for that matter ;)), nor am I affiliated with Open Builds in any capacity, so my comments really have absolutely no weight, so with that...

    My thought is that at least some (if not all) of the parts themselves are protected under some form(s) of copyright, trademark or patent. Reasoning is that if you look at their V-Slot extrusions, the term "V-Slot" has a registered trademark symbol next to it, as does "C-Beam". The term "OpenRail" has a trademark symbol next to it. The "Xtreme" wheel kits have trademark symbols, and so forth. It only seems logical that these parts are likely not open source since they have the trademarks on quite a few of their parts' names.

    If I were in OpenBuilds' shoes, I'd be extremely careful in how those questions are answered in the open (or in writing), so their answer (or lack of) is understandable in my opinion. There's way too much at stake for OpenBuilds to make a blunder in answering the question. My $.02 worth...
     
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  3. Thomas Miller

    Thomas Miller Well-Known
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    I agree. I had noted OpenBuilds is keen to make sure their trademarked items are always labeled as such, as they should, and do protect the trade names of their products. As far as I know (also not an attorney) this doesn't cover the product itself, just the name. I could sell vegetable shortening all day but I can't call it Crisco :p. Perhaps I have a fundamental misunderstanding of licensing and if so I would appreciate being corrected to gain a better understanding.
     
    #3 Thomas Miller, Mar 21, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2018
  4. Giarc

    Giarc Master
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    I do not believe anything is patented. All plans and parts drawings are open source so anyone can build them. The names on their products are trade-marked so you know you are getting quality parts versus the Chinese cloned crap. But, according to some recent posts I have seen, the Chinese are selling knock-offs and using OpenBuilds photos and names on cloned products. Who would have ever thought the Chinese would do something so dastardly.:rolleyes:
     
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  5. GrayUK

    GrayUK Openbuilds Team Elder
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    "Openbuilds" is so open, you can feel the breeze!! :D
     
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  6. Mark Carew

    Mark Carew OpenBuilds Team
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    Hey guys I wanted to chime and in here as well and say without getting deep into the tech side of the licensing, Giarc and GrayUK have it right. :thumbsup:
    OpenBuilds reviews licensing terms for each new part released for the system. We have always done our best to be as open as possible and are happy to say that all of our parts to date are fully open source!
    @Thomas Miller You are correct in your example;
    Its the name that is trademarked but the parts are released as open source as of course the builds must follow and are released as open source as well.
    The reasoning is (as Giarc mentions above), to deter those who would use the good names of OpenBuilds and its awesome community to push support and spam for their cloned parts/machines.
    Hope this helps
     
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  7. Thomas Miller

    Thomas Miller Well-Known
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    Perfect! I'm really glad y'all run your operation this way; thanks for validating and clearing it up for me :)
     
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  8. Mark Carew

    Mark Carew OpenBuilds Team
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    You got it brother! Its really centered around the idea that OpenBuilds is created by all of us and so everything that can be open is. We are extremely honored to be a part of helping to grow this community and become friends with so many great helpful people here.
    Thank you for considering us for your publication Thomas :thumbsup:
    Mark
     
  9. Rob Taylor

    Rob Taylor Master
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    One point I'd like to make here that I've seen elsewhere in FOSSH and has always rubbed me the wrong way; the use of "clone", "knockoff", etc. to describe alternative vendors' releases of open source parts. By definition, you can't "knock-off" an open source design, you can only reproduce it. It seems very odd to use these tonally negative descriptors to describe other people... Using the system as intended?

    Seems like a more community-spirited approach to accomplishing largely the same communicative goal would be to invert the sentence subject and go positive; "We use trademark to ensure a benchmark level of quality", "the trademarks are how we guarantee the consumer their expected quality demands", or whatever. It's about what YOU do, not what the other guys do (which could, in theory, be just as good as what you do, and indeed hopefully is, in terms of the health of the overall ideology and ecosystem).

    Just a 2c that's been building for a few months now. :)
     
  10. GrayUK

    GrayUK Openbuilds Team Elder
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    Rob. I step wearily into this conversation, but, until I read your comments, I must admit I hadn't given it much thought, or consideration. So my 2p. :rolleyes: I feel the words you mentioned, "clone" and "knockoff" are from each end of the copy scale. These are more used as "descriptive" terms with underlying feelings. A clone would infer that it is identical, and therefore as far as being a disservice to open source, would in fact be of benefit to the principal. However, "knockoff" infers a copy of questionable quality, and is often used in conjunction with a breach of Trademark or Identity theft. :( But yes, you are right, we are inclined to be negative generally, when someone else uses what we consider to be "Ours" when it really isn't. :banghead:
    Thank you for bringing it to my attention and mind. :thumbsup:
     
  11. Rick 2.0

    Rick 2.0 OpenBuilds Team
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    Would "counterfeit" be a better word? The issue isn't that they are making open source parts, it's that they are claiming them to be genuine OpenBuilds parts. It wouldn't be a problem if they labeled their wares as "OpenBuilds compatible" but they don't. They continue to prey on consumer ignorance. And these unknowing consumers expect OpenBuilds to solve their problems should their purchases not be up to snuff.

    Ecosystems only thrive when a symbiotic relationship exists. In the OpenBuilds ecosystem, the shop supports the forum and the forum supports the shop as well a number of other entities who also provide nourishment and growth to the forum. Counterfeiters however are an invasive species. They don't care about the health of the OpenBuilds ecosystem. But again, at issue here isn't third parties making open source parts, it's about deceiving customers. If these third parties would merely list their items as Openbuilds "compatible" so consumers realize there is a difference, then it would be up to the consumer to decide whether to support the ecosystem or the invasive species (which could ultimately destroy the ecosystem and set all those who depend upon it adrift). And while the issue of negativity may be a bit of a downer, weeds are weeds and playing nice with them only allows them to flourish at the expense beneficial vegetation.


    (Note, the above is merely the opinion of a volunteer moderator and in no way reflects the official position of OpenBuilds.)
     
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  12. Giarc

    Giarc Master
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    I agree, but many of the parts are not completely "compatible." On the OB Facebook page today, someone was complaining they could not get their parts to work right with the c-beam. Further down the comments, they advised the parts were Chinese made "clones." Yet, as Rick mentioned, they came looking for help from Openbuilds. At first glance, a person may have thought the problem was with genuine Openbuilds parts, which does Openbuilds a disservice.

    Also, I believe it is counterfeiting when you produce an inferior product and sell it using the trademarked names even if it is open source due to the dishonesty involved. I have seen people post links to the C-Beam machine and Workbee machines from Chinese Companies. These companies took the product photos directly from Openbuilds and Ooznest and used them to sell these products as if they were genuine. There are many clones of the Prusa I3. I own one. However, I have never personally seen a clone sold that used Prusa's own photos, nor have they claimed to be genuine Prusa machines. There may be some, but I have not seen them. Basically, you know you are not getting a real Prusa when you buy a clone. With these Chinese sold Cbeams and Workbees, people believe they are getting the genuine thing. Why not just sell them with their own name under their own brand?

    I do not mind arduino clones. I tried different ones and had mixed results. Now, I tend to buy the genuine (well, if that ever gets settled) because some clones are crap. I like that some companies' clones use different colors or names for theirs. It sets them apart. I do not like when a Chinese "counterfeit" Arduino producer tries to mimic the silkscreen and trade markings of the Italian boards to fool unwitting customers into thinking they are supporting the Arduino project by purchasing a genuine board.
     
    #12 Giarc, Mar 23, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2018
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  13. Rob Taylor

    Rob Taylor Master
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    That's all I'm getting at- something to be bearing in mind. We have a tendency to bring our zero-sum western IP mentality to a lot of things because it's simply the framework we tend to exist within, but I think it's important to actively self-evaluate. In terms of nomenclature, I'd argue that OpenBuilds isn't here to make value judgements on work anyway (which was my original fundamental point), merely enforce its IP- and even then, it's important to be as judicious as Trademark law allows (not very, I know) in keeping with the spirit of open source.

    The parts aren't "counterfeit" though. There's no such thing in open source. They're simply a vendor's version of a particular design, which, quality depending, may or may not be very compatible with that actual system. Community-based reviewing systems could be a useful aspect here. It sometimes feels like there's a morality judgement at play when someone does or doesn't buy OEM OpenBuilds parts, which is absurd within the context of the purpose and philosophy of the movement. Not everyone can afford to pay $50 for something they can grab on eBay for $13. In terms of prototyping it makes more sense to experiment with low-cost import versions anyway, before potentially going with the higher-cost, higher-reliability/warrantied/supported components later on. Some people simply don't have access without importing, which costs a fortune. Others live in economically depressed or developing countries and for them, $13 may as well be $50.

    I dunno, it just seems like OB is focusing a little too much on itself sometimes, at the expense of inclusiveness. The store and brand are great and support the community, but it's the community and builds and ideas generated through the power of open source that truly matter and are the fundamental purpose for its existence to begin with. Obviously the fact that it makes decent money allows for it to employ a team of people and give away a lot of stuff, which are fantastic things, but it seems like it takes those things just a little too much to heart in terms of the wider world. Maybe it IS trying to pivot, become more of a Sparkfun or Adafruit with the self-branded products and educational marketing content. Which isn't inherently a bad thing, I'd just argue some introspection is important to stay open and communicative with the people who provide it with value to begin with (both money and information) and that it doesn't drift toward becoming a MakerBot.

    "Invasive species". "Weeds". We're talking about random dudes in Shenzhen with no social safety net trying to keep their machines running to keep the lights on here, as far as I'm aware. Why begrudge someone their couple nickels if they can provide people with a needed service?

    Now, when you're talking about actively attempting to brand themselves as OpenBuilds and effectively impersonating a brand, things become very different, and C&Ds, DMCA notices, etc. become valid. However, I'd argue that it's important to distinguish between "Hi, we're OpenBuilds" and "This is a piece of OpenBuilds(TM) VSlot(TM)." Because... It is. No, it's not OEM, but it's still a piece of extrusion of the VSlot design originally by OpenBuilds. It's OpenBuilds VSlot, because that's what it is. A tautology, I know, but you see my point. It's not "compatible with..." or whatever. It IS that. That's what an open source design is. Anyone can make it.

    For example, Ubuntu is a trademark of Canonical. If I put Ubuntu on a disc and sell it, well... It's still Ubuntu. It's not "my version" of it, it just is what it is. Debian's a trademark too, for that matter. If I was to distribute a copy, it would still be Debian, because that's literally what it is, not because I have any rights to the trademark. I might be belabouring the point a little here, but I'm trying to be precise about how I'm framing it. :p

    That's an inherent downside of open source products. It's the whole "freedom vs security" scale, and open source is deciding to sit firmly on the "freedom" end of it. Really all you can do is build a repository of community-sourced review materials and try to get the word out there who does and doesn't do good versions of the design. Coming looking for help from OpenBuilds seems like a good thing. The community is literally here to help with problems, and even if the particular problem is unsolvable (ie. they just got bad parts) at least they're now in a place where they can get good information and good parts, or directions to good parts. Wasting time and money is frustrating, sure, but it's not like those aren't common to the entire open source world, especially hardware. If you want something to work right first time and always be fixable, you're better off with proprietary.

    You just can't counterfeit an open source product. The names and photos are legally protected and can be subject to takedown notices on the part of the marketplace companies. If they're also offshore and don't subscribe to our IP laws- which also isn't the worst thing in the world- then there's not much you can do. If the parts/kits are good, then what's the problem? "As if they were genuine" is a defacto meaningless statement for an open source design. You've released it to the world, there is no "genuine". You can argue OEM if you'd like, and there are certainly pros to going with the supported route, but it's not the only route, nor is anyone else precluded from building an OB competitor that also provides support and maintains quality standards. If someone builds a reputation on AliExpress, good for them. More quality parts is good for the whole community.

    Do people try to get clone support from Prusa themselves? Probably. Do Prusa chase down photo theft and any trademark infringement? Also probably- it's almost a dead certainty that someone out there is trying to sell clones using OEM materials. It's part of the deal. If you don't want to be dealing with that, try going proprietary, but you'll still be dealing with clones and IP infringement because reverse engineering and industrial espionage are trivial these days when everything's made in the same place. Proper branding and marketing are the key, which OB do tend to focus on a lot, to their credit.

    If the silkscreen is copyrighted, then they have possible recourse there, and I'd imagine they do for the larger infringers. Of course, it's probably not worth the hassle and expense vainly attempting to chase down every last back alley operation. The money is almost always better spent working on improved products, support and marketing. In this brave new world of infinite copyability, leading from the front and cannibalising your own market are the only way to stay ahead.

    Whether something's made in the US or EU or China is irrelevant as long as the quality standards are met. Open source is supposed to be about the betterment of humanity as a whole, every nation and continent, a singular entity, not petty nationalistic protectionism- we have way too much of that going on as it is. I'm not necessarily accusing you or anyone else of making that argument, just a point I'd like to make on the general topic.

    Hopefully I'm still vaguely on the original point? Hahaha.

    Edit: Just had a thought that I should add that some of my points are licensing-dependent, and open source is a sort of sliding scale. But I'm going off Gray's proclamation that OB are so open you can feel the breeze. :D
     
    #13 Rob Taylor, Mar 23, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2018
  14. Mark Carew

    Mark Carew OpenBuilds Team
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    This is a good discussion but with so many opinions on the subject it can easily flame up which we would like to avoid. So, I would like to interject a little of our overall point of view here at OpenBuilds in hopes that this will give a little more understanding of the OpenBuilds philosophy as well as clear things up a bit.
    In short - Sharing is what we feel is the common belief that attracts so many awesome people here to the OpenBuilds community.

    The devil is in the details and in my opinion that’s where things that start out good sometimes end up going bad.
    At OpenBuilds we try to stay away from getting too far into the details as much as possible and rather focus on the main objective goals. Rob hit the nail on the head with OpenBuilds overall open source mission statement "Open source is supposed to be about the betterment of humanity as a whole." We keep this at our core here at OpenBuilds and have faith that the community will see this and support it as well.
    As one of the larger open source communities we must be careful with rules that can put ourselves into a checkmate, removing the very freedom that is open source.

    Is it easy? No. Like Giarc and Rick mentioned above; people will and do take advantage of your willingness to be open, absolutely. However, even in this we know the good will always outweigh the bad and as long as we do our due diligence to keep the bad out (props go out to the mods here for that) we can and will build an open source resource that those with negative influences cannot stand against.
    You cannot put a box around open source and label it a thing or ,to be honest, even an organization. It is guided by principles, but the true nature is the desire that comes from each person’s heart knowing that we are all working toward a common legacy together unifying and making the world a better place over all.

    The underlining drive of open source is, of course, based on the simple guiding goodness that is the Golden Rule. There is so much more that goes into the idea but I hope this gives a little more insight into our feelings and missions here at OpenBuilds.
     
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