Entries Matching: Innovation
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the Open Hardware Summit, an event that is always a highlight of my conference year. Now in its fourth year, the summit is a chance for the robust community that has grown up around open source hardware to come together, discuss what has been happening, and show off great advances.
By any measure, the open source hardware community is thriving. Each year the summit gets bigger, the projects and products get more ambitious, and the barrier to entry is lowered. But this year it did feel like the community was reaching an inflection point. The world of open source hardware is expanding beyond its original borders, and that presents its own set of challenges and opportunities. While I raised some of these during the panel that wrapped up the summit, I wanted to expand upon a few of them a bit more.
At a hearing on unlocking phones, some suggest that
Congress added laws against circumventing access controls not just to fight
piracy, but in order to protect particular business models. Businesses use this
argument to justify using copyright law to criminalize activities that don't
actually infringe copyright.
Up until last year, unlocking a cell phone so that it could
be used with a different carrier was perfectly legal. That changed when the
Librarian of Congress decided no longer to include it in a list of exceptions
to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which forbids the circumvention
of technology that controls access to copyrighted works. The Librarian's
decision has sparked a great deal of controversy, and lead to several proposed
bills that would once again make it legal to unlock cell phones. In a hearing
before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and
the Internet last Thursday, Congress heard testimony about one of these bills,
and about the practice of unlocking phones.
Subcommittee Vice Chairman Tom Marino began the hearing by
framing the considerations on each side in terms of their effect on the market
and existing business models, pitting the promise of a more competitive
marketplace that phone unlocking allows against the ability of carriers to
recover the cost of subsidizing phones.
week (January 7-11), Las Vegas hosted the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, the
annual trade show where tech companies present their latest gadgets and
gizmos. Speculation about which company
will have the largest, sharpest, thinnest, displays or the latest bells and
whistles for their mobile handsets dominates the tech world for weeks leading
up to CES, and the show officially begins the conversation for consumer tech
for the year. Walking the convention
center floor and playing with the newest in consumer tech is a tech
fanboy/fangirl’s dream come true. Public
Knowledge sent a delegation to the show this year and was encouraged by the
energy of the attendants not only with regard to tech devices but especially
toward tech policy.
Most people who know of Makerbot know them as a one of the leaders in the home 3D printing market. Fewer people realize that they are also one of the highest profile examples of another movement: open source hardware. Like open source software, the open source hardware community makes its plans freely available – and usable – to the general public. This strategy was recently put to the test when another company tried to use Makerbot's plans to make a Makerbot replica – and sell it for 2/3 of the price.
Open Source Hardware
While much attention has focused on whether
European antitrust regulators will allow the major label Universal to buy one
of its competitors, EMI, the proposed merger has also attracted the attention
of US antitrust authorities in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Senate.
In the US context, this merger bears some important similarities to recent
proceedings like the Comcast/NBCU merger and the failed AT&T/T-Mobile
and AT&T/T-Mobile: Taking Over a Maverick Competitor