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Time to puncture the schematics 'copyright' myth?
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MadScientist



Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 63
Location: Denmark

PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:52 am    Post subject: Time to puncture the schematics 'copyright' myth?
Subject description: (Suspect some won't even read to the bottom before replying...)
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-->> Edit: Skip to Mosc's common sense reply on page 4. <<--

----

Sorry about the length of this post, but I realized I had a need-to-know of something relating to the standards of the E-M DIY community, along with an associated key question. I will probably not have opportunity to respond within the next few days, though rest assured I will.

The nettle I wish to grab, is the urban legend that you can have copyright on schematics and printed circuit board layouts. Let me be blunt about this: You can't, regardless of any text you put on them.

Anyone wishing to argue this point, should probably start by explaining the continued existence of third party suppliers of non-original spare parts for cars. I can assure you they contain straight copies of both circuits and circuit boards, and is the direct reason why some car manufacturers have begun 'potting' their electronics. I should know, as I worked for a major European supplier of non-original car parts for 3 years. They are made by the tens of thousands each day...

More precisely:

*) The creator/author does have copyright on the actual drawing or digital file, in the same way he does for original music, text etc.
*) However ideas cannot be copyrighted, nor can facts, so the copyright doesn't extend to any machinery configuration depicted, electronics included. This is similar to a photograph, where the photographer does not gain any rights to whatever a photo depicts.
*) The 'knowledge content' of electronic schematics count as a techical configuration, which means they are no different than a drawing of the gearbox for a car, a jet engine or whichever.
*) Absolutely nothing, save for a patent, prevents anyone from redrawing a schematic, exact component values included, and publishing it in a book or on the internet.
*) Reverse engineering is explicitly allowed, and so is wholesale reproduction - and sale - of exact copies of printed circuit boards (minus identifying marks from the original manufacturer). If this wasn't the case, then the original designer(s) would have an automatic monopoly on repairing and selling spare parts for any of their electronic pieces of equipment, including electrical installations in industrial plants, factories, planes etc. They don't. Industrial third party service is very big business, even if this is no longer the case for domestic electronics.

If you wish to have a monopoly on making physical realizations of a particular schematic, then you need to patent it. Copyright does not apply.

----

All this, however, is not really what I wish to discuss. What I'd like to hear people's opinion on, is the effect the continued existence of this urban legend has on the electronics DIY community on the Internet, specifically Hi-Fi and synthesizer DIY. At first blush it may seem like a slam-dunk case of being for the greater good. My argument is that it probably hurts more than it helps. Way more.

My background is that of a radio amateur, scientist and electronics tinkerer for more than 30 years. It was only somewhat recently, within the last decade or so, I started to dabble with Hi-Fi and more recently synth DIY. As such I was somewhat shocked with the difference in atmosphere among the different communities: Science, radio amateurs and audio DIY.

The hard sciences and radio amateurs are two pieces out of a single cake. Nobody is under any illusion about copyright of schematics - or rather the lack of same - and whether they may or may not use them for anything they wish. The rules are simple:

*) No number for a valid patent attached to a drawing? Everything is fair game, off you go. Smile
*) Valid patent number? No commercial use allowed without license, but public disclosure and discussion is of course perfectly fine (that is the whole point of granting a patent). So are personal copies of the physical widget for educational or hobbyist applications.

As scientist are known to do, then people try to give credit whenever possible (especially when warranted), through literature references or in similar ways. So do radio amateurs. Yet everybody copies everything, all the time. No-one is bothered by commercial copycats, as everybody generally knows who came up with a design or an idea first. Nor are there any 'enthusiastic' copyright or click-though messages to be found (except with a few ignorant newbies), and in particular no vitriolic messages threatening with silly lawsuits (protip: Even the national legal systems are not universal around the world. See civil law versus common law).

As a result the 'cross-pollination' effect between the different tinkerers, hobbyists as well as commercial developers is huge. One major reason for this is that commercial vendors are not worried about publishing service manuals and full, annotated schematics of their products, as they know they won't get publicly flamed to a cinder for copying somebody else. In return the community gets copies of any commercial developments and everybody is happy.

Contrast this to the synth DIY community. Despite having a community standard of not copying other people's schematics, I fail to see much development in public. There are a few glimmers of hope out in the open, yet it seems *all* the manufacturers, including the kitchen desktop operations, are not publishing *anything* about recently manufactured items.

Apparently it may not be obvious to everyone, but another reason for the lack of copyright on technical configurations, is that in many cases there are only a very few ways of accomplishing a particular task. This may not be obvious to people with little experience with electronics, but this is the case, and is a trait synth DIY shares with radio amateur technology.

I mean, exactly how many ways can you make a state variable filter using OTAs?! VCAs?! VCOs? It is virtually impossible to start designing anything, without bumping into somebody's perceived 'copyright'.

A very serious aspect of this problem is that many people very vigorously claim copyright on utterly trivial schematics, of which I can cite previous examples from decades past. Maybe this is understandable for individuals with little background in electronics, yet I can only wonder how I as a recent newcomer to this area of electronics am supposed to work around this issue in relation to the community.

All options seem unpalatable.

*) Ignore the unhappy noises from the 'copyrightholder' outright? Oh no…
*) Ask for permission to use 'his' idea, perpetuating this unfortunate state of affair? What if some day down the road I wanted to turn my design into a commercial product?
*) Point out in public - equally vigorously - that the 'copyrightholder' just might want to read *these* books/articles for a few decades worth of prior art?

Erm… Confused

In fact I realized I was more worried about the community reaction to my creations, more than I was of anyone potentially copying them for commercial gain (which has already happened to me in a different context, software even).

So, in other words, do we keep development in the dark, or do we attempt to drag it back out in the Sun? It seems to me public development of new ideas have been pretty much dead for the last few years when it comes to synth DIY. At least very few people seem to be posting genuinely new ideas here on E-M or elsewhere, nor can I find any open discussion of development with contributions from the major manufacturers.

I'll get my coat…

Frank.

Last edited by MadScientist on Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:04 pm; edited 1 time in total
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SubG (deactivated)



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

You are right,the answer/sollution i give you is: Anyone have the right to copy and clone what you want but if you want to share ,show or sell it in public start your own forum or site.

it bypasses all those virtual problems and copyright nonsense ppl claim.

On any other forum you have to follow the admin / moderator taste ,he pays the server,you follow his rules,useless to discuss anything.

Its not a question of copyright,its a question or forum/admin rules,thats all.
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Dougster



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 11:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Since I'm a designer/developer/shipper, I have a horse in this race.

I'll reply to your message when I have time, but my first reaction is that when I feel like I'm appreciated, I'm willing to share things. When I feel like anything I do is going to be stolen and/or used against me, I don't want to publish it. What's my reward? What benefit is it to me?

I've been on the Internet since before the world wide web was created, and I've seen a tremendous shift in the online social contract. Back in the 80's, we were young, naive and optimistic. Then the opportunists came along and exploited what we gave away for free. Of *course* IBM loves Linux, they get a free operating system and don't need to pay for OS programmers! Don't give Steve Jobs a tour of Xerox PARC, he'll steal the ideas for the windowing system, object oriented programming and the mouse! (Cue discussion of how one should not be angry about what happens when things are given away for free, or how only someone like Jobs could have created Apple.)

For an interesting discussion of some of these issues, check out chapter 4, "The Cost of Social Norms" in the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely...

I for one am not sure I'm any smarter than I was, but I'm a lot less innocent and quite a bit more jaded. In general, I'm less inclined to publish my ideas and more specific to this conversation, as long as there are people out there who repackage things with little to no "value add" I won't be publishing my Eagle files. And with all the idiotic patent infringement lawsuits going on lately, I definitely don't want to fly into *that* radar.

At the same time, there are truly appreciative people out there who can benefit from the work done by people like me. Those few are the reason we publish...

Regards,
Doug (Maybe it's time to read Atlas Shrugged again...)

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frijitz



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I think the legalistic issues you have summarized are well known and have been hashed out in the DIY community many, many times. I disagree there is any "urban myth" in this area. Rolling Eyes

The important issues are ethical and practical.

For the first, people just plain don't like having their work stolen. Period. Especially if they are trying to make a bit of money from it, and they see others profiting from it without any significant value added of their own. If you don't have any ethics, then no amount of arguing will change your mind about this.

As a practical matter, as more and more stealing occurs, the less and less inclined people are to share. It's quite surprizing that you complain about "I fail to see much development in public" without connecting to this simple fact.

Personally, I have shared a lot of material, both on my site and on the forums, and I have put a fair amount of time into helping out the newer members of the community. But lately, exactly because of people telling me they don't have to ask permission to use my work, I've been cutting back on my contributions.

I notice you joined here less than a month ago. You seem to be totally ignorant of our previous discussions. Why don't you spend some time catching up before posting any more of your inanities?

And if you do grab your coat, be careful the door doesn't slam your butt on the way out.

Very Happy

Ian
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wmonk



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

In what law do you read that copyright doesn't apply to schematic drawings, but does to other drawings?

What you are mixing up is the way licensing works. A license is not the same as copyright.

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JingleJoe



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Dougster wrote:
(Cue discussion of how one should not be angry about what happens when things are given away for free, or how only someone like Jobs could have created Apple.)

I find it amusing that it was acctually created by George Harrison.

(P.S. sub-title was correct, TLDR; too tired, but my own stance on sharing schematics is freedom)
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Blue Hell
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Berne convention may apply ...

http://www.law.cornell.edu/treaties/berne/2.html

Quote:
Subject to the provisions of Article 7(4) of this Convention, it shall be a matter for legislation in the countries of the Union to determine the extent of the application of their laws to works of applied art and industrial designs and models, as well as the conditions under which such works, designs and models shall be protected. Works protected in the country of origin solely as designs and models shall be entitled in another country of the Union only to such special protection as is granted in that country to designs and models; however, if no such special protection is granted in that country, such works shall be protected as artistic works.


(2.7)

There also is an interesting section about morality in it.

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also .. could someone please turn down the thermostat a bit.
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frijitz



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

JingleJoe wrote:
(...but my own stance on sharing schematics is freedom)

I don't remember, can you show us some of your own original schematics you have shared with us? Thx.

Very Happy

Ian
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fluxmonkey



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

classic flame bait, from someone who joined the forum 4 weeks ago. pfft, dnftt
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JingleJoe



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

-Warning! Warning! Prepare to go off topic!-
frijitz wrote:
JingleJoe wrote:
(...but my own stance on sharing schematics is freedom)

I don't remember, can you show us some of your own original schematics you have shared with us? Thx.

Very Happy

Ian

Well I don't know if I've shared any original shcematics but I have shared a few altered/re-combobulated schematics.
Looking back on my posts, I havent shared alot of them on here except for this thread and this one however I have posted a few of my other schematics on the internet elsewhere. I'll certainly be posting more in the future but the problem with my schematics is I draw 99% of them by hand on paper and they are a huge mess and only I can understand them by the time they're finished. So scaning them would be no help to anyone else and I would have to transcribe them to my circuit simulator which is time consuming and difficult

In conclusion: You're free to look at my schematics, whether you will understand them or not is another question Wink
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Dougster



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

JingleJoe wrote:
I'll certainly be posting more in the future but the problem with my schematics is I draw 99% of them by hand on paper and they are a huge mess and only I can understand them by the time they're finished.

While we're "off topic", might I suggest:

http://opencircuitdesign.com/xcircuit/

Regards,
Doug

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JingleJoe



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Dougster wrote:
JingleJoe wrote:
I'll certainly be posting more in the future but the problem with my schematics is I draw 99% of them by hand on paper and they are a huge mess and only I can understand them by the time they're finished.

While we're "off topic", might I suggest:

http://opencircuitdesign.com/xcircuit/

Regards,
Doug

that one certainly looks more versetile doodling-wise than my current simulator, thanks Very Happy
I'm working on an original circuit now, going to simulate it before imminent and desperately needed sleep, may post it tonight or tomorrow if it works.
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frijitz



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

JingleJoe wrote:
Well I don't know if I've shared any original shcematics but I have shared a few altered/re-combobulated schematics.
Looking back on my posts, I havent shared alot of them on here except for this thread and this one however I have posted a few of my other schematics on the internet elsewhere. I'll certainly be posting more in the future but the problem with my schematics is I draw 99% of them by hand on paper and they are a huge mess and only I can understand them by the time they're finished. So scaning them would be no help to anyone else and I would have to transcribe them to my circuit simulator which is time consuming and difficult

Great stuff, thanks. Reminds me, I should spend more time looking at that forum. I know, documenting schematics is a pain. Half the time I find out later that I made changes that I never wrote down so I end up having to retrace the circuit to check the final drawing. But that kind of work is what sharing is about.

Very Happy

Ian
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LFLab



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Let's not dismiss this right away, I think the thread starter is right in that there is very little new under the sun, and that it is very little you can do to protect you from copying. I mean, those are the main points in his post, right?

In a commercial environment, this is well understood, and the only way to keep ahead of the pack is to make sure you have development momentum, just make sure the others can't keep up with you, and there will always be a market for your products. Don't spend resources on silly lawsuits, while you could have spent those resources on development of new stuff which differentiates you from the competition.

In a hobby environment, things are very much different, we all have families and daytime jobs, and a limited amount of time to do "development" it's very sore to see someone else reap the benefits of your work. Regardless of how many schematics or work was shared, or what your stature in the community is.

IMHO, they are two different settings, and law was designed for the first environment, not perceived fair when applying it to the second, hobby/ non-commercial setting. And rightfully so.

Bottom line is: "Don't be an asshole, and use other people's work for profit only with prior consent".
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inlifeindeath



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Great post!
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Dougster



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

JarnoBassplayer wrote:
Let's not dismiss this right away, I think the thread starter is right in that there is very little new under the sun, and that it is very little you can do to protect you from copying. I mean, those are the main points in his post, right?

Sure, seems like a good statement of fact. Where do we go from here?

Quote:
Bottom line is: "Don't be an asshole, and use other people's work for profit only with prior consent".

There will always be people like that.

I think you're going to have to wait until a new crop of naive young innocents comes along to get any new development. Then after they get ripped off and become jaded, you'll have to wait until the next crop, lather, rinse, repeat.

I bet if we plotted this out, we'd have a nice sawtooth... Laughing

Regards,
Doug

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LFLab



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

LOL, instead of a development cycle, a development sawtooth.
But how big a problem is copying in S DIY? I mean Doepfer hasn't produced a new A-100 module in years. Have people over here been ripped off with commercial copies of their work?
And because of people making their own layouts of schematics, or?

Just trying to understand.
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Dougster



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

[experience]
It only takes once to make you really jaded.
[/experience]

A slightly different topic: Obsessed people who have to have something, regardless of its source. Usually not the kind of person who can build something themselves. Discuss...

Regards,
Doug

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SubG (deactivated)



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

JarnoBassplayer wrote:
LOL, instead of a development cycle, a development sawtooth.
But how big a problem is copying in S DIY? I mean Doepfer hasn't produced a new A-100 module in years. Have people over here been ripped off with commercial copies of their work?
And because of people making their own layouts of schematics, or?

Just trying to understand.


for some ppl 10 or 20 $ is a lot of money for a bare pcb,so they clone it and etch it themself...
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Dougster



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 7:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

SubG wrote:
for some ppl 10 or 20 $ is a lot of money for a bare pcb,so they clone it and etch it themself...

I don't have a problem with someone etching their own board or two, and I would guess that a lot of other developers feel the same. I don't even mind if that person makes extras for a couple friends and sells them at cost. The problem is when someone takes your design and sells it for a profit without attribute or acknowledgment. The worst is when they lay claim to the design themselves.

Tying back into a previous post, I find it amazing how there's at least one guy on ebay who slaps together cloned circuit boards in crappy wood and plexiglass cases and gets hundreds of dollars for these things. It's amazing to me that there is even a demand for that kind of thing. Oh well... (A fool and their money?)

Regards,
Doug

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SubG (deactivated)



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Dougster wrote:
I find it amazing how there's at least one guy on ebay who slaps together cloned circuit boards in crappy wood and plexiglass cases and gets hundreds of dollars for these things. It's amazing to me that there is even a demand for that kind of thing. Oh well... (A fool and their money?)

Regards,
Doug


ah yeah,i see who you mean...

but be carefull,when you dig a hole for others,you're sure to fall in it yourself.
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Dougster



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

SubG wrote:
but be carefull,when you dig a hole for others,you're sure to fall in it yourself.

Which hole do you mean? The I've-got-to-have-it-no-matter-what hole? Or the I'm-going-to-profit-from-someone-else's-design hole?

Full disclosure: I make the MB-808 kit, which is a Roland TR-808 clone with some mods and the MIDIbox sequencer. Because I like to play nice and I respect the MIDIbox copyright, all parts for the kit are sold at cost. Not taking into account the cost of my copy of Eagle (I bought the full version) and all the hours it took to fix the schematic (Moogah did the original work) and completely redo the board layout, I make less than $1 US per kit. Put another way, I'll have to sell at least 1500 of these things just to make back my investment in Eagle. I have hundreds of hours invested in the design and layout, so I'd probably have to sell an additional 5000 kits to make back that money, or I'd have to raise the cost of each kit by a significant amount. Luckily, I get to use Eagle for other things, so that investment isn't a complete loss, but I'll never recoup the labor cost...

Regards,
Doug (Why do I do it? I've been asking myself that very question...)

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Sigh. We've been through this a bunch of times.

NB - MadScientist is not exactly a *new* member - he is a *returned* member who previously (early in the existence of this forum) had a different username. Our admin policy does not rule this sort of existence out, but we do try to accommodate preferences. That said, this subject has been visited time and again, and hasn't really changed. It is not an "urban legend" here.

My disclaimer is that I am not a lawyer. I have however had conversations with lawyers on this subject, I study and read on the subject, and my comprehension on the subject is somewhat better than it was say 5 years ago. But I'm not a lawyer.

First, copyright law is not uniform throughout the world. Nor is patent law, and in some parts of the world (Germany, for instance) there is a concept of "Utility Model" which is not patent law but is still a monopoly on a design. Your mileage varies with various international differences and it is helpful to understand all of the nuances of modern intellectual property protection, including public domain which is also a sort of protection.

Schematics are protected as artwork. That's pretty much it, and that's pretty much it wherever in the world you go. If you draw a schematic yourself, you may be protected under copyright, but if you are simply redrawing a schematic as a copy of someone else's copyrighted work, that's generally covered as an infringement, for what should be fairly obvious reasons (try copying someone's book and marketing it as yours if you want to know).

Copyright has a lifespan. That also varies depending on where in the world you executed the artwork, or where you registered the copyright if you did so in a country that has a treaty arrangement or is part of the {Berne, Geneva} convention(s). There is a SDIY convention, which seems to be referred to as the source of the urban myth. I'll get to that.

Now, we all know a schematic drawing is a description of a physical design; that may be electrical, mechanical, procedural, or biological (or organizational for that matter).

Protection of physical designs is different from copyright, but they are closely related and overlap each other frequently (Software can be protected by copyright or patent in the US, for example). Patents are also relatively local, there is no world-wide body for patenting. Patents are also sufficiently broken such that a patent can be granted on something made up of prior art or obviousness, and it is the accused infringer's responsibility to prove such things in order to invalidate a patent. Check out the current legal circus surrounding Android if you'd like to know how that's going, or any number of other suits (RIM, Apple, and my all time favourite, RAMBUS). Utility model does come into play here, but that is a specific and non-universal mechanism which really confers the monopoly on teaching the method.

Those sorts of protections last long beyond the technology life cycle, mainly because they were generally enacted back when 20 years was a reasonable time to develop a product and bring it to market, and make some kind of profit from it. There are many arguments, predictably between free-thinkers and corporate interests, which have skewed the lengths of the periods of protection. All that said, the protections exist, in some places, not in others, and have different lifespans as well.

There is such a thing as "Public Domain". There are certainly works which were once protected and no longer are; however derivative works or substantial technological advancement on public domain material can be protected. This is a natural outcome.


Which brings us to licenses, conventions and ethical thinking. Rights holders frequently grant license to use protected works. A license can be free (as in freedom, or as in beer, see the Gnu Public License, or Creative Commons), it might be for a monetary one-time (MP3 user license) or by tenor (a subscription to a magazine), or some other method.

By convention, a group or professional body will define norms and standards for both attribution and compensation of rights holders. The RIAA, for example, enhances their members' rights with a set of conventions for collection or royalties, coordination of cross licensing, and enforcement of infringement actions. Such conventions exist for the benefit of the members - the end user who finds himself the subject of an enforcement action may not well appreciate the benefit which is afforded to the members.

Ethical Behavior may be the most difficult to describe, although the example I found was a good start. I am professionally bound by a code of ethics where I work, for example, and that defines a set of behaviours which I am indeed bound to follow; the penalty for not following that code of ethics can result in disciplinary measures including loss of employment. The SDIY community does have a long standing code of ethics which has its root in academia. Principles such as attribution and credit, adherence to fair use of ideas, and attention to acquiring license to use protected ideas in commercial ventures are all part of that code.

Here at electro-music.com, there are some rules which we do encourage people to follow, and some licenses that are claimed in order to protect the site from unethical or unprincipled individuals. However we try to operate in an ethical way and encourage the community to do the same.

In any case, there is no urban legend here about use of schematics or designs. There is fair use, and there is unfair infringement, and that usually happens when someone starts selling someone else's protected ideas without a license to do so.

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JingleJoe



Joined: Nov 10, 2011
Posts: 878
Location: Lancashire, England
Audio files: 14

PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Dougster wrote:
(Why do I do it? I've been asking myself that very question...)

Because you know, as many of us do, that there just aren't enough weird electornic noises everywhere ... and we have to do something about it.

P.S. I won't let copyright laws get in the way of sharing my circuits, I will provide lots of my diagrams freely to help the cause!
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kjackman



Joined: Sep 05, 2010
Posts: 69
Location: Utah, USA

PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Clearly some behavior is blatantly unethical: copying someone else's design and passing it off as your own, for example. It's hard to imagine anyone doing that and not knowing they were doing something wrong. Manufacturing and selling completed products using PCB layouts developed by others, without license or authorization, is also a pretty blatant ripoff of someone else's work.

It's the non-blatant gray areas that worry me. I'm more interested in community standards than legality, and since those standards aren't clearly spelled out anywhere, it can be a bit of a minefield. So be patient with us newbies who ask questions that might have been answered before, but aren't necessarily easy to find in the forums with a simple search.

Dougster wrote:
I find it amazing how there's at least one guy on ebay who slaps together cloned circuit boards in crappy wood and plexiglass cases and gets hundreds of dollars for these things.


Are you referring to seller "lamaymusic" and his MFOS Sound Lab builds? Here's one of them right now.

Not to put you on the spot or anything, but I need absolute clarity here. I'm going to have to create and sell modules myself someday to fund this SDIY addiction, and the last thing I want is to invoke the outrage of the community and possibly invite exile when I do.

Seeing examples of people who violated those conventions and understanding what, specifically, was objectionable will make this a lot easier. If I happen to know of only one builder on eBay, and assume you might be referring to him, and it turns out he's legit and you were actually referring to someone else entirely, I need to know that, or I'll just be more confused than ever.

Lamaymusic is the only eBayer I know of who routinely sells builds based on someone else's designs. I'm sure there are more I don't know about, but if you are indeed referring to lamaymusic, I'm scratching my head here, because:

1) He clearly credits Ray and MFOS: "Up for auction is a Music From Outer Space Soundlab analog synthesizer designed by Ray Wilson."

2) I don't know whether he has Ray's blessing or not; he doesn't say. Ray lists "MFOS Product Fabricators," and I don't see this guy on the list, but that doesn't mean he's not legit. Ray specifically says, "If you are not listed let me know and I'll list you," so it's possible he just hasn't asked to be on the list, or perhaps doesn't even know the list exists. There isn't enough information to determine whether he's an "authorized" manufacturer.

3) There is nothing on the auction page or in any of his videos or web pages showing the PCBs he uses. He could be using cloned boards, or genuine ones purchased from Ray's site; I don't know. I imagine, if this is the guy you're talking about, that someone here must have purchased one of these, or seen one, to know what he's using.

4) The cases are indeed made of plastic, at least the ones I see up for auction now. If these are indeed crappy workmanship, prone to breakage or failure, or in some other way not worth the amount people are paying (hard to tell from just a pic), then that's a more general ethical issue, not something specific to SDIY. Also, this is eBay. Customers leave feedback. They all seem happy with their purchases, and the prices they paid for them. If it's shoddy, they don't seem to mind.

So if this is who you're talking about, please clarify what he's doing that's objectionable. It's possible there's something going on behind the scenes (e.g. he doesn't have Ray's authorization) that I don't know about, but on the face of it, I don't see anything wrong here.
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