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Is RepRap Open Source Hardware?

September 25, 2012 4 comments

So, last week there was a big hubub when @Josefprusa tweeted:

So I called @makerbot support and asked. Replicator 2 is NOT Open Source! #FAIL #reprap 😦 I’m sad! /cc @bjepson @adafruit @make @hackaday.

Then a few days later, by happenstance, I was browsing SparkFun, and noticed they had a link to the Open Source hardware Definition (it sounds awesome by the way). However, as I was reading it, one thing stood out to me like a sore thumb:

8. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the work (including manufactured hardware) in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it must not restrict the hardware from being used in a business, or from being used in nuclear research.

Now, I know it’s not in the RepRap license, but it is a statement made on BEHALF OF the RepRap core development team (on a sub-domain of the official RepRap website, no less):

… the RepRap researchers will work actively to inhibit and to subvert the use of RepRap for weapons production, whether by individuals, companies, or governments. And we will remove any such designs from this site. At least RepRap is not very suited to weapons manufacture – it tends to work with more subtle and delicate materials. Give people an internal combustion engine and a few will make tanks; but many more will make ambulances.

Whether you personally support* weapons or not is of no value to this discussion; the topic here is that while the RepRap license may not explicitly state you can’t make them, the core RepRap research team has committed themselves to behaving in a way that is completely contrary to the spirit of the open hardware movement.

While I do not classify them as the same level of evil as I do MakerBot Industries at the moment, I still do not hold the RepRap research team guiltless for their hypocritical and unacceptable behavior.

(*: for the curious, I do support gun ownership, after all: “if you criminalize guns, only the criminals will have them”. — not to mention, as for the Tanks and Ambulances statement, if we’d sent ambulances to Europe instead of tanks, I’m sure World War II would have gone much differently… Just sayin’.

And fuck, guys, think about the children — yes I’m being serious — if you give the community the opportunity to build a safer gun, it may save lives.)

  • Update (Sept. 27, 2012):

@Josefprusa sent me a response to this blog article via twitter:

@FOSSwiki @BrainSlugs83 we haven’t discussed that in core dev, its not official statement. Sebastien put it in there. We will look at it THX

It may not be an official statement, and I as I said before, even if it is, it technically doesn’t violate the Open Source Hardware rules (as their RepRap license does not prevent you from making weapons), but it is still a display of anti-open-source-hardware behavior, supposedly on behalf of the RapRap development team, and is certainly contrary to the spirit of the open source hardware movement, in general.

In the end, everybody makes mistakes, the real measure here will be to see how quickly (or even if) this mistake is remedied. I will definitely be waiting to see what the result of this discussion is.

Hopefully, they’ll have a discussion, come to an agreement, and take the statement down as an “official” action (as opposed to, by some vandal editing their wiki). That kind of remedy would definitely be acceptable, not to mention a testament to the coolness of the RepRap guys. Let’s see what happens. I’ll keep you guys posted.

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Categories: 3D Printing, Politics