A lecture/talk/chat on open source and its licenses

Due to popular request (mainly @punkish many times :stuck_out_tongue: ), I’m trying to move a private message thread to an open topic.


squeaky wheel ← grease

But @punkish, I wonder: have you ever thought that actually most of the discussions in the community might be going through private chats and we are just not aware of them? :astonished: I mean, who can tell?!

Have I ever wondered if there are private discussions in this community? yes, of course.

Do I care? mostly no. If someone chooses to have a private conversation, it is none of my business by definition, so I don’t care about it.

That said, if we are discussing open source licenses in a forum about open hardware, while making a big noise about transparency, inclusivity, participation and all the other feel-good adjectives, and still choose to make that discussion private, well, something is wrong with that picture.

And if a formerly public conversation in which I participated, that I care about, and possibly even know a bit about based on a decade’s-worth of work, if that conversation is made private, then I squeak. Seems like if I squeak a few times (took 3-4 squeaks), it helps.

On the other hand, if squeaking wouldn’t help, that is, if that conversation were to remain private, then I would stop caring. And that would be the worst possible outcome, no?

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Hi @punkish, great points!! But I have a technical (and, sorry, kind of stupid) question: :slight_smile:
I’m not familiar with this forum’s system, exactly how do I graft an existing private thread into an open one?

@amchagas and everyone:

We talked about a video conference in the near future. Are you still up for it? I think it will really help develop the outline of the lecture! If it helps, I can also post a draft outline here. But let me know!

Hi @hpy,

yes, still up for it! I think posting a draft outline would be a good way to start! maybe in a wiki like post?

@art.pilacinski here is the thread.

This is a wiki post to get ideas and contributions for the lecture (if I understood correctly, people can add suggestions directky here!):

Main divisions:

  • Expose people in the audience to open source (hardware and software examples)
  • Expose people to the different licenses and how these things can be used in a company/professional setting
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I’m trying to upload the proposed outline of the workshop but the system here doesn’t accept text documents. Any hints? :slight_smile:

maybe copy paste the content?

Diddn’t work :frowning:
But’s here’s a link to the Google doc with the proposed workshop outline. Don’t mind the working title :wink:

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Everyone interested in contributing to the workshop/talk is welcome to edit that document. This was a quick draft, so correct any mistakes you spot and add your suggestions so that we may send it to the MedTech School team ASAP

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Dear @amchagas

Please accept my sincere apologies for disappearing over the past few weeks. Some “fires” came up in Real Life ™ and I was completely occupied… :frowning: I’m sorry I let you down!

Looks like a lecture has already been developed? Is it still going ahead? I’m still happy to help if needed.

In case it is helpful, below are some of my notes on what a lecture might look like. I’m definitely not trying to barge in and supersede what’s already been posted by @art.pilacinski and others! But I just thought I put my notes here in case any of it is useful. I also have accompanying materials for the points made below. Please let me know if I can help with or provide anything to make your lecture successful!

Again many apologies for not being around.:confounded:


Pre lecture tasks for audience

  1. Submit a few sentences on how you define:
    • open source? and/or i.e. “What does open source mean to you?”
    • licenses
    • copyright
    • patents
    • commercial
      • The audience’s answers can inform better preparation of the actual lecture.
  2. Watch Everything is a Remix to gain a better appreciation for issues around creativity and copyright and patents
    • One key point from the film is that creativity/originality is always built on, and a remix of, what came before. Unfortunately the current copyright and patent systems are too restrictive and hinder creation. This is where open source comes in.


  1. Some stats and examples on how popular “open source” is:

  2. Begin the lecture by going over some of the pre-submitted responses to how people define “open source” and the other terms (see pre lecture tasks above). This is just to show that people have diverse pre-conceived notions of what “open source” means.

  3. Because there are so many different preconceptions of what “open source” means, it is important to clearly define it for the purposes of this lecture. And to do that, I’ll talk about the WHY and HOW of open source.

  4. Starting with WHY - We have an ethical imperative to go “open source”:

    • A more accurate term is “free software”, where the word “free” refers to freedom not price. Mention the German translation of “free software”.
    • This freedom means individual liberty and autonomy where you, the user, is in control of the technology you own, not someone else.
    • More formally, the Free Software Foundation maintains the formal definition of free software -> state the four freedoms.
    • So, for this lecture, we will define open source as anything that respects the four freedoms.
    • And if a product doesn’t provide these four freedoms, it is proprietary.
  5. But some might ask: This “freedom” thing sounds nice, but why should I care, and how does it affect me? Here are some examples of what happens when we don’t have freedom over our technology.

    • Sometimes it shows up as relatively minor issues. For example, someone recently thanked Apple for changing the signal strength indicator on the new iPhone to something easier to read. We shouldn’t have to “thank” Apple for this if we, as users, have the freedom to control what happens on our devices. The idea is that once we obtain or buy a product, the power is in our hands to do what we want, such as changing the signal strength indicator. Apple should be thanking us if we choose to buy their products!
    • But this issue around freedom can also manifest itself in larger ways.
    • Internet of Things (IoT) devices are becoming very popular, and companies making proprietary devices are using their power to control users.
    • Volkswagen dieselgate. Because the cars’ software is proprietary, one was allowed to check it. Now this was just cheating on emissions standards, but since computers are built into almost every new car, what other powers do these automobile companies hold over us through proprietary software and hardware?
    • Microsoft Windows constantly tracks everything you do, including location data, text input, voice input, touch input, webpages you visit, and telemetry data regarding your general usage of your computer, including which programs you run and for how long. And even though they claim they will keep your information “safe”, you are not allowed to check what your computer is actually doing because it is all proprietary.
    • And sometimes it is literally life and death: The pacemaker examples here and here, where someone’s health and life was at stake.
    • This sounds good, but what if I don’t want to just give things away? What if I want to develop products commercially?
      • Of couse you can. Respecting freedom doesn’t mean non-profit! Let’s dispel common myths, such as:
        • you would lose copyright over your work (in the case of software)
        • you “give up control” and anyone can make changes to your work/product
        • Remember that free software refers to freedom, not price. In fact, this freedom means that you have the freedom to make money from your products.
        • So it is incorrect to state that “open source” == “free of charge/charity” == “non-commercial”"
    • And this leads to the next section…
  6. HOW do open source companies work?

    • Red Hat is one obvious example.
      • Also mention that very popular big data software are all open source (Hadoop, etc.).
      • These companies are all making enormous profits without sacrificing a users’ digital freedoms.
    • “The company “ownCloud Inc.” was founded in 2011 and raised over $10 million in venture capital.” from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nextcloud#History_of_the_fork
    • *In the past few weeks, the fully open source OpenEMR Plus was used by the Williams Med Tech
      to provide telemedicine services to hurricane victims unreachable by traditional means!
    • Companies are making their products open source because it is the ethical and practical thing to do:
    • Discussion around business models: https://redd.it/4uiqth
    • This applies to hardware, too.
      • Arduino
      • “Aleph Object enjoys lower research and development costs and more rapid deployment of products to market because of the feedback from their users” from this paper on open hardware business models
      • The lower R&D costs and rapid deployment has resulted in another medical related product: The OpenPCR PCR machine. PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction, which is a critical technique used in molecular biology and medicine.
      • Open hardware projects out-innovate proprietary products and undercut their prices. See the paper on open hardware business models I mentioned above with many more profitable examples. Many examples are biomed related.
  7. How do I make my product open source?

    • Remember to respect the four freedoms.
    • To do that, you need to choose a license
      • What is a license and why do I need it?
        • In almost all legal jurisdictions, copyright is automatically attached to a work as soon as it is created. Unfortunately, by default, copyright restricts a work so that no one can make copies of it or build on it. If you watched the documentary Everything is a Remix, then you know that this is a problem.
        • A license is the set of permissions that you, as a copyright holder, grant to people on how they can use what you create.
          • For example, do you remember the licenses you have to agree to when you install software? That’s what I’m talking about here. (show a screenshot of a GUI license agreement)
          • The problem is that these are usually proprietary licenses, which means that the software developer only allows you to use the software. You don’t own it, and you are not allowed to look at the source code to understand how the software works.
      • To make your product open source, choose an open source license that respects your freedom.
        • This means that you explicitly tell people, through the text of your license, that they have the basic freedoms.
      • On the most basic level, these open source licenses state that:
        • You are free to study how the product works, modify it, and basically do whatever you want with it.
        • As long as you provide attribution to the original creator.
      • But one important point is the concept of copyleft vs non-copyleft licenses.
        • A copyleft license has an additional requirement that you need to continue to share your modifications under the same terms.
      • A copyleft license is valuable for at least two reasons:
        • It prevents other people from building on what you made and turning it into a proprietary product.
        • Because others have to share their modifications to your work, you can choose to benefit from those enhancements.
      • To use a copyleft licencse, choose GNU GPLv3 for software, and CC BY-SA for non-software such as text, media, websites, etc.
      • There are licenses like this for hardware, too.
  8. End with summary of take home messages and things you can do, e.g.:

    • Review what the definition is, including ethical imperative and the need to respect digital freedoms
    • Recall that there are profitable businesses built around open source software and hardware.
    • If you build a product, remember to attach an ethical open source license to it, and build a community that works with you through development.
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Oh one more thing. There is the Defensive Patent License (DPL) which might work for both software and hardware: https://defensivepatentlicense.org/

Hi @hpy,

This is great! And no worries about the delay, I completely understand as it has been quite busy for me and @art.pilacinski in the mean time as well.

The lecture ended up not happening as the people in the program are a bit overworked at the moment with the program coming to its end.

But I don’t think this should stop this thread! We could boil down the topics and agree on something that could be used for a general audience. I think your contribution is great and well structured, but might end up leading to a lecture that is too long? Maybe one could think about dividing this into two sessions?

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Thank you so much @amchagas for your understanding and the feedback! Here’s what I think:

  1. How long of a lecture did you have in mind? I know from my past workshop that I can probably go through what’s in my outline between 1 to 1.5 hours. Of course we can also plan multiple lectures, in which case we can assign “homework” for the audience so they bring something back for discussion after the first lecture…

  2. Whatever that doesn’t fit into the one lecture, we can still have it as part of a larger outline that we can turn into: an article or a wiki page somewhere.

For the article idea, I am interested in eventually submitting it to www.opensource.com. As for the wiki page, is there a GOSH-related wiki that we can post to, or is this forum it??

I took sometime to re-read things and I think this outline is actually spot on. We could aim for an 75 min “lecture” block, with 30 min, break and another 30 min. After Q&A?

What would be the best option for you? to do it solo, shared with someone, remotely, in loco?

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Hi @amchagas,

Glad to hear the stuff looks useful. :slight_smile:
75 minutes sound pretty good, and I like the idea of splitting it up separated by a break.

I’m happy to attempt the whole lecture myself, but it there’s someone else interested in sharing that’s great, too. In the past I’ve only done lectures in person, but if we can set up a strong and stable video link that might be good as well (and we can record it as a webcast!). So basically I’m flexible!

Are you still planning something for the med tech course? Or is it another place?

I think in order to give this at the MedTech course, it would have to be a solo thing, since I would have too much to prepare (since a lot of these license things are new to me, or at least learning about most of them to be able to share it with other people).

If this is the case (and it would be great if we could put this in the MedTech course), I can contact the people organizing it and get a time slot/advertise it and make sure the internet connection is stable enough.

Also, recording a webcast would be fantastic!

If this is ok for you, I can see what dates are possible/available, prefereabily between now and October 15th?

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