51MHstcCOTL._SL75_.jpg on his Sunday CNN Show, Fareed Zakaria recommended this book and said it was relevant to the modern discussion of Ideas as Property (Patents). I should very much like to hear the perspective of DIY thinkers on the relative merits of Idea ownership, Idea sharing, and how they might reform the current Patent system. Is it still a tool for social mobility - and impetus for the Industrial revolution - as it was for Watts and his Steam engine - or has it been captured by static institutions in a way that precludes growth - especially from new entrants? Has the narrative of a man, a plan, a steam engine - become overwhelmed by patent sweatshops at MS and HP patenting the obvious and mundane, as a means of pulling up the ladder?

Open Source is in many respects a new paradigm of Intellectual Property, but is there a baby in the bathwater?

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  • @David: Yeah, that's roughly what my thoughts are. My motivation is trying to reduce cost in UK (we're not called "rip-off Britain" for nothing!), but it sure doesn't feel right. Wish I could figure a way to reduce shipping costs from USA without losing the tracking (I don't trust standard post).
  • Developer

    I was involved manufacturing on an even smaller scale in .au through the 90s. I'm sorry to hear that the situation has gotten worse rather than better. My employer was frequently much further in the hole than you were, even when it was just the two of us (the business did eventually prosper to the point of ~5 employees).

    In general I agree with Chris; there's a difference in scale between the cost-to-self doing community-developed software vs. hardware. The costs still exist for software development, mostly lost opportunity and a typically small hardware investment, but they still exist and you still account for them in much the same way - can I pay my bills? Can I eat?

    I'm curious why you say "I do not feel that it is right to do a for-profit". Don't you think you should be compensated for your efforts? At the very least, don't you think that your expenses should be covered by the folks that benefit from your work? Doing something open and giving is great, but you have to temper that with practical considerations as well. If you decide that you want to maximise your contribution to the community it's reasonable to try to minimise your profit, but if you operate consistently below cost you will find yourself unable to give anything at all by way of being bankrupt.

    Various factions in the "free software" movement have done us all a massive disservice by demonising the entire concept of paying for, or being paid for, intellectual effort. It's infectious too, in that once you associate "free IP" with something tangible and necessarily not-free (like hardware), the implication is that it will all be free-as-in-beer.

    All that being said, I wish you and the OP project the best of luck.
  • > In short, is it OK for me to build ArduPilot clones and sell them for profit?

    It is legal and their license allows it, but is it the right thing to do? IMHO no, I would not do this. I am very clueless with all this but my opinion is, this is not a nice thing to do. If everyone did this, how would ArduPilot keep moving forward? In the end it would hurt the community to generate profit for one person. There are three letter that hit me with OpenPilot and a massive miscalculation: R&D. It is a resource drain that I never even imagined it would be, it was a naive mistake.

    This is why Open Source hardware is interesting as an experiment, but as noted Paparazzi have now backed away from it. Pixhawk make you agree to certain conditions I believe as well, not 100% sure on this, sorry if I am wrong.

    It is also the same type of reason that OP did its own GCS and firmware, sure we could have wholesale lifted one from another autopilot project, but a big part of the fun is seeing what a team can produce. Please, this is not a dig at all, I know other projects do this to speed development. PixHawk is an example as they use the Paparazzi bootloader but longer term this can easily have an effect and creates bad will if not done right. I mentioned before a project called Wine that changed its license, this was because a for profit company just took it to make money. Their license at the time allowed this but they expected people to do the right thing and work within Wine, alas they did not so as a counter measure they changed their license to stop this.

    I think forks should be something of a last resort, either hardware or software, even if the license allows it, kid gloves need to be used as I have seen this create so many hostilities and ruin good communities. We have had a guy approach us about using our GCS for Ardupilot, the simple answer was, we would prefer it if you did not, especially as we have not even released anything yet, to be truthful this mostly because we want the credit for the work we put in to it. He respected this and we pointed him to qgroundcontrol which he is now adding ArduPilot support to, additionally it is much further along than we are and more suitable. This is a win / win for both projects, we don't feel like a non profit project has been raped to help a for profit which would annoy a few of the OP team, qgroundcontrol get an extra dev and it means people have more choice as well.

    Just like people selling ArduPilot hardware he could have legally turned around and said, screw you, I'm doing it anyway against our wishes but he was not like that and understood.

    I have seen Chris say before he wants other people to make their hardware, I can not possible see how this would benefit the ArduPilot team? But as I keep saying I am naive with this stuff, perhaps it will but look at the investment Chris has made in all the machines, if someone just took it without doing any work at all to it, it does not seem fair to me, again maybe just me.

    I do know OP needs the sales of hardware to keep the project alive, developing hardware and testing can be such a ridiculously expensive task and has hardware gets more complex, this will only increase. OP still does not have mainboards available or AHRSs, its been 6 months since we started. This is because we are trying for perfection when they are sold, this is so hard and also scope creep is a real problem as well.

    Anyway, just my take, I could be very wrong.
  • This is a really interesting debate, as I have often worried about the "correctness" of setting-up a company to sell products based mostly on Open Source hardware. I'd like to do so but, for me, it just feels wrong, even when there appears (to me) to be no barrier to this happening. Or am I reading more into OSH than really exists?

    In short, is it OK for me to build ArduPilot clones and sell them for profit?
  • David,

    It was very concerning of me to read the following:

    "I also misjudged how much things cost, ....
    ... I am still going through it, although it is now very possible OpenPilot won't survive long enough for me to learn enough. This would be a shame but such is life. I'll see what happens by Christmas before changing anything, I'm not that hopeful and the real tricky part is the complexity of the ARM microcontroller."

    Is the STM32 processor giving you problems? I thought PiOS development was done, and you have something working. Have there been some additional hiccups?

    The OpenPilot project is fantastic, and there are some very talented people involved. If you truly believe that the OpenPilot project and it's goals are noble and for the betterment of the community and society - then be ready to do what it takes to create a sustainable organization. A few dedicated people like you going into credit card debt is recipe for disaster, and is not sustainable and is not going to last. If I may present a few arguments which may ease your fundamental philosophical resistance to an open hardware/software organization making a profit when developers contribute for 'free'.

    1. Let's monetize all inputs and outputs of the organization. Basically, assign a dollar value to any type of 'benefit' - be it:
    a) developer time which the organization is getting for free
    b) management of the organization which everyone should be responsible for, but practically a subset of people focus on it
    c) manufacturing logistics, etc ..
    d) anything else!

    2. Once you take this approach, you realize that the developers who you say are working for 'free' ... in reality are not working for free. They make the decision to use their free time (which has value, ... they could be making money in that time elsewhere), to pursue an interest of theirs. So, the developers are in reality - spending resources.

    3. When you have accepted that the developers are not working for free, but are actually effectively donating towards a project with which they share and agree with it's goals and ideals ... then this scenario is similar to using the organization as a fab shop - to get the physical object manufactured, to organize the community, etc ...

    4. The developers are already spending resources (thru donated time, which has value) in contributing to technical aspects of the project, and end up spending a little more (thru hard cash this time) in order to contribute towards the sustainability of the project.

    5. (Pay heed to this one Chris!) The reason why point 4 is acceptable and does not violate any ethical maxims in my judgement has already been mentioned in point 2, " ... but are actually effectively donating towards a project with which they share and agree with it's goals and ideals." So, as long as the project and it's maintainers are true to the original vision, take community input seriously (as if the community has purchased shares in the organization thru their donated time, etc ..), then there is no harm.
  • 3D Robotics
    Mike, the terms "for-profit" and "not for profit" are legal terms. In the US, it's determined by whether your company is registered as a 501c3 (non-profit) or a LLC/S-Corp etc (for profit). All the companies mentioned above, including us, are LLCs or S-corps (or the Italian equivalent). It actually has nothing to do with whether you actually succeed in your goal of making a profit!
  • I am eternally grateful for all those who participate in sharing their software and hardware expertise through projects such as Ardupilot and many others. The educational benefit for me has been immeasurable. Giving up time and money for the benefit of so many is something that I will be eternally grateful for and will be the incentive for me to hopefully and eventually be able to return the favour by publishing one of my projects.

    regards Peter
  • That would be dishonest, 3D Robotics are a for profit company. Spinning it another way is the type of thing that will lead to massive blow back anyway, they work with an above 200% profit margin as Chris has stated. It is a for profit business and people do not seem to mind this at all. Changing language and spin sucks, why? Because it is language that has enabled a lot of human progress, manipulating it to deceive just doesn't sit right with a lot of people.

    Sparkfun do the same deal, they do not have to claim to be nonprofit, they are having fun, are doing extremely well and making extremely good profits.They are up front, just like Chris is, about making money. Additionally ArduPilot is having to turn away developers as they are full, no one seems to mind at all.

    A small part of why OpenPilot is not profit is due to Chris' book, for me I ethically disagree with it, this is why OpenPilot is genuinely nonprofit, however, this might not work out at all as explained, I think profit needs to be in the equation and Chris has the right approach.

    Additionally, no one else seems to share my opinion that Open Source project where people work for free should not have a for profit entity at the top making money, it seems I am the odd one out with this view. So there is no need for people to spin it any other way.

    Another thing OpenPilot has decided do is to never reused code from any other Open Source autopilot project either, again we want to do it all on our own two feet.

    Apart from that, PixHawk is now going the for profit route, Paparazzi has decided they will not even release board files for their new autopilot, the whole small UAV community seems to be going commercial and for profit.
  • Chris maybe you need to stop using the word profit? Profit is a portion of margin (or mark-up?) and that is probably a more appropriate term. By the way NGOs claim to be non-profit organisations but it doesnt stop them paying people well - in many instances too well....and they still qualify as non-profit.
  • 3D Robotics
    Krzys: For sure, Open Source is not for everyone. That's why it operates on a volunteer basis. If you feel like you derive more benefits than costs in participating, you do so. If you don't, you don't.

    I think the track record of the past two decades is pretty clear: open source and closed source are both successful models, for all involved, and can happily coexist. No need for philosophical consensus on this. Smart (even high-esteem!) people are on both sides.
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