New licence to end open-source abuse?
While Prusa concentrates on the stifling effect of open-source leeches on innovation in the 3D printer world, his comments are applicable more broadly.
In an open letter, he said: “The open-source movement relies on the fact that everyone involved plays by the same rules. It cannot be done without mutual respect, understanding, and a shared goal.”
He points out that companies which invest heavily in research and development, and then open-source resulting information, can subsequently be under-cut by companies who do no R&D but simply manufacture clone products using the published design files.
There are other examples, including companies are using open-source software, without re-publishing their changes, and re-releasing the code in closed-source products.
However, redress is close to impossible because open-source licences were not created to protect against sharp business practices.
“The standard GNU GPL license under which our printers and software are available is very vague, written in a complicated way, and open to various interpretations. It was developed by academics for academic purposes,” said Prusa.
In his letter (Editor: read this thoughtful and detailed document here), he proposes the development of a new open-source license that can be used to push back against leeches, and includes a number of aims to consider on the way:
- If you’re using some code or blueprints to bring software or hardware to market, the original code’s authorship must be clearly stated on the product or in the software. Additionally, deleting copyright information from headers and history from repositories is prohibited.
- The production of nearly exact 1:1 clones for commercial purposes is not allowed.
- License for manufacturing spare parts is valid for service, modification, or educational purposes.
- Upgrades and additional modifications based on original parts are allowed and welcome.
- Parts that can be considered consumables can be manufactured and sold commercially after the verification by the licensor based on the presentation of samples.
- If a product is labeled by the manufacturer as obsolete (or cannot be purchased or ordered for longer than three months), the non-commercial clause is automatically terminated if identical parts are no longer produced within the successor of the product or cannot be purchased separately.
- If the licensor ceases its activity, the non-commercial clause is terminated.
The state of open-source in 3D printing in 2023