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> I don't want to forward this reply to RMS but I still fail to see
> what he means by physical circuit. Schematics are Copywritable and so are
> PCB layouts (i'm pretty sure this is the case) so whats his point?
As I understand it (and I could well be wrong) the problem is with the
PCB itself. The layout is copyrightable as a drawing, or something that
can be displayed on a screen. Once you've actually made a board, somebody
can copy the board itself because copyright doesn't apply to that: to
trying to leave some rights to non-copyright holders, lawmakers have
decided that everyone has the right to reverse-engineer designs.
For a multi-layer board, reverse engineering must be a pain (not something
I've ever tried). BUT if you are distributing the complete design including
gerbers anyone can bypass your license by making their own board from
the gerbers then claiming to have reverse-engineered it.
I THINK thats the point, though I'm not sure. If it is, then what rms
is saying is not completely general: for IC layouts, the Semiconductor
IC Protection Act, which is internationally accepted quite explicitly
says that the mask (which falls under 'mask rights', similar to
copyright) can either be in the form of a drawing or a physical mask
on a chip. Even then it weakens this by saying: you can reverse
engineer from the chip for educational/learning purposes; and you may
manufacture the chip HOWEVER you learnt about its structure.
I'm coming to the conclusion that trying to come up with a license for
'designs' is a red herring. We need separate licenses for:
Specs (eg ISA for a processor, drawings of FSMs etc) [but can only
copyright the document, not its contents as an idea]
Simulations [use the gpl straight with no problems]
Synthesizable designs for FPGAs
If people created separate licences for the bits they have most expertise in
then if they had common features maybe they could be merged later. Or you
just have an overall license that says: 'all specs contained herein are
covered by license X. All schematics are covered by license Y. etc'
What do you think?