Today at the Open Hardware Summit, OSHWA President Michael Weinberg announced that OSHWA will be rolling out the first version of their certification for open hardware products this month.
As they outline in their recent blog post, this certification is hugely beneficial to both end users and the designers behind open hardware. The standards put everyone clearly on the same page — users can know with certainty that they are buying a certified open hardware product, and the manufacturers of those products can legitimately declare and defend their commitment to open source.
The certification is registered to the person or organization who goes through the registration process, but the actual ID is product-specific; an organization with multiple products will need to register each one independently. This is great for users, who can find specific documentation by looking up certification ID numbers registered with OSHWA.
So what if an organization splits up after registering a certification in their name? “We’re gonna take that as it comes. Part of this stage is to get an understanding of how people use the process,” says Weinberg. As for products that undergo significant revisions, OSHWA advises that you re-register it in order to preserve their documentation records of previous versions.
To start the process of registering your product as open, simply go to the OSHWA site and fill out their free form, which is a legally binding agreement to comply with the community’s definition of open hardware. When asked about the repercussions of noncompliance, Weinberg says “The short answer is that we have an obligation to patrol it.” First time offenders will receive a warning and an opportunity to correct. At some point, though, OSHWA can levy fines.
If you’re clamoring to register your product, plan on doing it during the month of October. You can attend a Documentation Day to get all of your ducks in a row. OSHWA will then collect all of this month’s applicants into a pool and randomly assign IDs.
As with all things open source, the standards of the certification are an iterative process. “Our commitment is to design as inclusive a [revision] process as possible,” says Weinberg. “This mark only matters if the community cares about it. And the only way that that happens is if it evolves in a way that makes sense to you. It’s part of an open community process.”
Since this is a new system with lots of potential edge cases, there’s a good possibility you still have questions. The Cardozo Law clinics are offering affordable legal advice on the issue. You can also email OSHWA directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.