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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Equivalent of GPLv3 for hardware???

From: Pen-Yuan Hsing
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Equivalent of GPLv3 for hardware???
Date: Tue, 5 Apr 2016 17:39:55 +0100
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On 03/04/16 08:06, Fabio Pesari wrote:
On 04/03/2016 03:38 AM, Pen-Yuan Hsing wrote:
Finally, RMS said that since making copies of hardware is costly
compared to software, free hardware is not as urgent of an issue right
now. That might be true, but I propose that since technology will
progress and one day copying hardware might become quick, it *is* a good
idea to set a good precedent and start a trend asap to ensure that
hardware designs will be free.

Love to hear your critiques.

The real question is not if new technology can be patented, in my
opinion, but if existing patents apply to libre hardware designs. I
suppose so, and this severely limits the amount of things which can be

Also, is there a database/index for libre hardware designs like the Free
Software Directory? If not, there should be. There are dozens of
Arduino-based libre designs out there, for example.

I also think there should be some equivalent to the FSF for hardware -
including firmware, which has always been the elephant in the room when
it comes to free software, and the poor (or inexistent) performance of
free drivers has prevented GNU/Linux (and free distros in particular)
from gaining mainstream adoption. Just think about how many WiFi cards
require blobs (I don't think I've ever come across one which doesn't).

Some equivalent effort of the FSF effort for hardware looks especially important now.

First of all, there is the patent issue you mentioned. The later work begins on free hardware, the more technologies are locked up by patents. And the holders of those patents will likely prevent lots of free hardware from being made or even conceived.

More than that, in light of the recent post by Mike about the x86 platform being locked up (, there is a strong imperative to either (a) free the x86 platform (which seems extremely unlikely), or (b) develop to maturity a replacement platform that Respects Your Freedom.

This is exemplified by the challenging situation the libreboot project is in. It currently only supports very old hardware. Even if some people find the performance of those hardware acceptable, one day those hardware will break down.

On that day, if there is no freedom respecting hardware/firmware/software combination, then there will literally be no free computer to use!

Developing a *mature* and well supported platform to replace x86 seems incredibly difficult, but it seems to me that without it free software will eventually become futile because there's no hardware to run it on??? (I hope to be corrected on this!) What to do?

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