CERN Launches Open Hardware Initiative
Four months after launching the alpha version, CERN* has recently
issued version 1.1 of the Open Hardware Licence (OHL), a legal
framework to facilitate knowledge exchange across the electronic design
In the spirit of knowledge and technology
dissemination, the CERN OHL was created to govern the use, copying,
modification and distribution of hardware design documentation, and the
manufacture and distribution of products. Hardware design documentation
includes schematic diagrams, designs, circuit or circuit-board layouts,
mechanical drawings, flow charts and descriptive texts, as well as
other explanatory material.
Version 1.0 of the CERN OHL was
published in March 2011 on the Open Hardware Repository (OHR), the
creation of electronic designers working in experimental-physics
laboratories who felt the need to enable knowledge-exchange across a
wide community and in line with the ideals of "open science" being
fostered by organizations such as CERN.
"For us, the drive
towards open hardware was largely motivated by well-intentioned envy of
our colleagues who develop Linux device-drivers," said Javier Serrano,
an engineer at CERN’s Beams Department and the founder of the OHR.
"They are part of a very large community of designers who share their
knowledge and time in order to come up with the best possible operating
system. We felt that there was no intrinsic reason why hardware
development should be any different.”
The CERN OHL provides a
framework for knowledge exchange that reconciles open design principles
with traceability with a clear policy for the management of
"The concept of ‘open-source hardware’
or ‘open hardware’ is not yet as well known or widespread as the free
software or open-source software concept," said Myriam Ayass, Legal
Advisor for CERN’s Knowledge Transfer Group. "However, it shares the
same principles: anyone should be able to see the source (the design
documentation in case of hardware), study it, modify it and share it.”
CERN OHL is an exciting achievement, with the potential of being the
lead licence for new hardware projects, like the GNU GPL has been for
free software,” said Alessandro Rubini, Free Software developer and
co-author of "Linux Device Drivers".
“Version 1.1 integrates
feedback received from the community in order to follow generally
accepted principles of the free and open source movements,” said Ayass,
“and purports to make the CERN OHL even more easily usable by entities
other than CERN”.
“By sharing designs openly,” said Serrano,
“CERN expects to improve the quality of designs through peer review and
to guarantee their users - including commercial companies - the freedom
to study, modify and manufacture them, leading to better hardware and
less duplication of efforts.”
"CERN efforts to build an
ecosystem for Open Hardware certainly bode well for more Freedom in the
digital space," said Carlo Piana, Digital liberties advocate and
General Counsel of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE).
workshop on Open hardware is scheduled to be held in Grenoble on the October 9, 2011, during the 13th International Conference on
Accelerator and Large Experimental Physics Control Systems.