The MakerBot/Thingiverse move to the Dark Side (Updated)

Walter | Posted 2012.09.23 at 2:33 pm | Perma

NYC-Resistor offshoot and a generally speaking cool company MakerBot Industries has caused a sudden uproar which seems not to subside. MakerBot has introduced two new successors in their Replicator series of 3D-printers, the Replicator 2 and the Replicator 2X, that for the first time in MakerBot history are not open hardware. Probably not coincidentally, people started to notice that Thingiverse, the online repository of 3D-designs which is also run by MakerBot Industries had changed its terms of use last February. I will quote the bit that has caused quite an uproar in verbatim:

3.2 License. You hereby grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to Company and its affiliates and partners, an irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free and fully paid, worldwide license to reproduce, distribute, publicly display and perform, prepare derivative works of, incorporate into other works, and otherwise use your User Content, and to grant sublicenses of the foregoing, solely for the purposes of including your User Content in the Site and Services. You agree to irrevocably waive (and cause to be waived) any claims and assertions of moral rights or attribution with respect to your User Content.

The relevant bit of the old terms of use read as follows:

However, by posting, uploading, inputting, providing or submitting your content to Thingiverse.com, you are granting Thingiverse.com, its affiliated companies and partners, a worldwide, revocable, royalty-free, non-exclusive, sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, create derivative works of, distribute, publicly perform, publicly display, transfer, transmit, distribute and publish that content for the purposes of displaying that content on Thingiverse.com and on other Web sites, devices and/or platforms.

The significant difference being that in the old terms of use the license had a limited scope, ‘use, reproduce, create derivative works of, display, transfer, transmit, distribute and publish’ , being the operatives. As a lawyer I tend to struggle with the application of copyright notions to open hardware, but precisely because open hardware and copyright are a poor match, the scope of this license was very much limited to Thingiverse-like platforms. As Bre Pettis wrote in his earlier blog on the change of the terms of use: this bit was probably nicked from the YouTube terms of use or those of a similar content-sharing platform. The net result was that this caused an inadvertent limitation on MakerBot Industries ability to incorporate stuff uploaded to Thingiverse in non-free open hardware products. Because selling a 3D-printer most likely does not fall within the scope of ‘the purpose of displaying that content..’, the newer terms of use however allow for such a thing.

Now these are both decidedly moves away from the openness that MakerBot was evangelizing in the past. Josef Prusa, of RepRap fame, has already started a Occupy Thingiverse movement and others in the community have responded so unfavourably that Bre Pettis, MakerBot Industries CEO and figurehead felt compelled to write a blog titled ‘fixing misinformation with information’ about it. In which he provides an argument that boils down “we haven’t figured out yet how to kick-start a hardware company with venture capital and remaining fully open at the same time. But trust us, we’ll be as open as possible, whatever ‘possible’ means”.  Which is about as tangible as Mitt Romney’s promises for the policies he’ll enact when elected president. Mind you, this section 3.2 of the Thingiverse terms of use is comparable to what is known in free and open software circles as a contribution license agreement. There are are all sorts of ways and purposes for which these are used and having been part of an effort to harmonize these I won’t say it is an inherently evil thing to do.

What is less-than-awesome is the way both changes have been enacted by MakerBot Industries. It is one thing to publicly announce that you’re having to compromise on openness because building an open hardware business model is still pretty much uncharted territory and that you’re moving back to some enclosure and also stating what your goals for future openness are. It is another thing to do kind of omit it in the fanfare surrounding the launch of a new generation of your products, a new generation whose polish was made possible to a significant extent by all the people willing to put up with all the quirks, bugs and sometimes outright braindead engineering decisions embodied in your earlier generations, just because an open 3D-printing future is awesome.

It is outright underhanded to use the same legal tricks outright evil companies such as Facebook and Apple use for the terms of use of a website you awesomely started to create an ecosystem to change the playing field that you can reuse the fruits of other people’s labour and creativity in any way you see fit. Again, you could have announced that due to the different economics of tangible goods versus those of pure information, you’ll need to be able to do stuff that is not necessarily congruent with openness. If done so in advance, the uproar could possibly be equally as bad, but would eventually subside. Especially if you made it clear that if you were actually using a design contributed by a Thingiverse user, you’d be reimbursing them. In fact, MakerBot has already done so, without even being obliged to do so. So if you are already doing something that is acceptable, why not be transparant about it? Because that is what it all boils down: MakerBot betrayed the massive amount of trust it had and makes it worse by telling the community which calls it out for it to trust it even more. And this is what really baffles me. The world of open source is littered with projects that collapsed after a major actor in that community decided to enclose it. Who remembers Mambo? The fork away from OpenOffice.org to LibreOffice because none trusts Oracle? The current forks of MySQL, for precisely the same reason? Or closer to home, Junior Veloso who pulled a similar stunt resulting inbeing overtaken by B9Creator? MakerBot explicitly set out to create a community-based ecosystem, both on the 3D-printer hardware side and the 3D-design side of things. Put a massive effort into that, especially communication. And it is all being thrown away. With platforms like Github available, a Thingiverse contender can easily be created. And then what? MakerBot Industries still won’t have the control it apparantly craved and nothing to show for it to its venture capital funders. I just don’t get it. For now I’ll steer clear from Thingiverse and will suggest others to do the same.

(Updated after the break)

Read more…

Race for the Future! Design it, build it, race it!

Jordan | Posted 2010.12.22 at 10:58 pm | Perma

Race to the Future

Attention all hackers and hackerspace members! Do you like creating with atoms instead of bits? Would you like to win fame and fortune? The Alternate Power Initiative wants YOU to design and build an alternative energy vehicle! Their second annual “Race for the Future” will be held in August, 2011 in Whiting, Indiana.

This race challenges you to:

Build a vehicle that can travel five miles powered by an alternate power source and race it through the streets of Whiting Indiana.

Here’s a subset of the rules:

  • Vehicle may not be powered solar energy or fuel cells
  • Vehicle may not be powered by a device based on existing conventional automotive or truck technology. Piston engines, rotary engines or turbines powered by detonated combustion gasses are not allowed. Piston engines, rotary engines or turbines powered by other sources will be allowed. These gasses would include but not be limited to those created by using gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane methane or alcohol as fuel.
  • Vehicle must be self propelled (no pedal power)
  • Vehicle may not be powered by battery or capacitor stored electricity, (brake lights and turn signals may be powered by electricity).
  • Vehicle may be charged, (fueled or energized) before 5 mile trial but may not be charged, (fueled or energized) during run.

For full details, visit their website at http://alternatepowerinitiative.com!

Here are the rules and the entry form.

Better hurry! There are only 20 entries, and hackerspace Pumping Station: One has already claimed two of them! Who will be next?

If you sign up, please post in the comments!


Exotic Liability Meet Hackerspaces

Eric Michaud | Posted 2009.06.03 at 8:55 pm | Perma

I was recently made aware that our very own Nick Farr did a interview for a new podcast called Exotic Liability.

In the podcast he describes hackerspaces while playing with tigers at the Bronx Zoo in NYC.

From the site.

In this episode:
Tiger enrichment
Hackers on A Plane
Hacker spaces
Survive DC update
Security stereotypes
Denver area events
Boston College is out to get you!

Direct download: Exotic_Liability_6.mp3

-E.

First TMPLAB WirelessBattle Mesh – April 11-12th 2009 @ tmplab

Eric Michaud | Posted 2009.02.17 at 4:35 pm | Perma

For those that can make it to Paris for this battle of wits and protocols, it sure seems to be a rousing good time.

Here are some of the details.

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“We are pleased to announce that the /tmp/lab  will be organizing a Spring Wireless OpenWRT Mesh Contest called “Wireless Battle Mesh” during 2 days (April 11-12th) with the goal of building 3 wireless mesh networks based on embedded hardware running OpenWRT and different concurrent mesh routing protocols.

The targeted architecture will be 3 networks of 25nodes + 1 wireless managment networks (10-20 nodes) to achieve realistic size of nodes number, data traffic, configuration problems. The architecture will be set-up indoor and outdoor around the building of the /tmp/lab.

OpenWRT will be the selected for the BoardSupportPackage running on the different hardware nodes and a core network configuration will be built on Linux servers with user-friendly features such as :
*VLANs
*Captive portal
*Authentication
*Admin portal

Concerning the mesh-protocols, selected targeted protocols are :

*OLSR : IP-based mesh routing platform (http://olsr.org and openWRT package available)

*BATMAN : Layer2-based mesh protocol (http://open-mesh.org) and available as a kernel module for Linux and packaged in OpenWRT

*BABEL : Layer-3 mesh protocol developed by University Paris 6, available for Linux and soon to be packaged for OpenWRT (http://www.pps.jussieu.fr/~jch/software/babel/)

Concerning the hardware node, we are looking for hardware sponsors that could enjoy this “real-case” contest by providing 50-100 nodes……….. More after the jump.

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Looks to be quite a good time for packet heads and people with a lot of time with Yagi’s. ;)

-E.


Hello World.

josh | Posted 2009.01.25 at 10:48 pm | Perma

I’m Josh Krueger. *waves*

I feel intimidated as my “credentials” don’t sound anywhere near as impressive as our friend Brendan. Oh well… I’m a software developer for a startup in Chicago, I can manage to play with electronics without poppin caps, I used to be an art kid, I thoroughly enjoy spinning electro and I generally have a lot of poorly thought-out ideas that will never come to fruition. If I inspire at least one person here, perfect.

As you can see, I have already made a few changes to the blog design that I hope are appreciated. I hope to make this easier to read for everyone. Enjoy it.

<3 Josh

*******

And with that auspicious post from Josh we welcome him with open arms onto the hackerspaces.org/blog team.

-E.

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