9/29/2017 – Open source is open source

This has come up again, and when people start yelling about others, it gets me a little angry.  Think of this blog post as another one of those where I’m just complaining.  It is only tangentially related to pinball, but it irks me so here we go.

I’m a big proponent of open source.  Why?  Because open source tools have enabled me to create a bunch of great things.  Things that would not have been possible without open source.  Let’s go over the tools that I use most days in my life:  gcc, linux, python, eclipse,  and millions of others.  That list doesn’t include many subprojects like kicad, gimp, audacity, etc.  That fails to mention open standards such as c, c++, IP, UDP which makes our world go around.  I guess that I’m not just talking about open source, but transparency and open standards.

Everything that I have produced for the Open Pinball Project (OPP) is under the GPLv3 license.   Why is that license important to me, and why not simply release the stuff as un-copyrighted?  An un-copyrighted work can be used by everyone (That’s good).  Here is the important distinction.  If you base your project off a GPLv3 project, it also most be released into the public domain.  This is referred to as copyleft.  Anything that is derived from the original GPLv3 copyrighted material must also be available for others derive further works.

So anyone can take anything in the OPP repository and use it for their own purposes.  The only stipulation that I really care about, is that if they do that, and make improvements, those improvements most also be available publicly so others can easily get the improvements and new works.  That ends up helping to increase the quality of the software or hardware in the future.

So why did I release it with that particular license?  OPP is months of hard work.  Maybe even years.  I have no idea how much time I have spent on it over the last 10 or 15 years.  I want others to be able to leverage my work so that they can learn from it, extend it, and generally use anything that they find useful.

I take copyrights very seriously.  Here is a strange fact that most people don’t know.  If you use the OPP pinball framework, sound can be either place in the sounds folder, or the sounds/copyright subfolder.  If it is in the copyright subfolder, it should not be saved to the repository and should simply exist on the physical machine.  For the Van Halen pinball machine, there are many Van Halen/Hagar songs that are played in the background.  That’s all copyrighted material, so I don’t have the rights to put that in the repository.  If the framework can’t find the sound file, and it is supposed to be in the copyrighted folder, it plays a standard sound clip stating “that is copyrighted”.

At one point a few years back, people were complaining that others were using their work in ways that it wasn’t meant.  I believe MPF (mission pinball framework) was originally branched from PROC work that Gerry, Mike, and some others did.  I think this was in regards to MPF supporting multiple pieces of hardware.  Don’t complain about that.  Feel honored that your hard work is getting new life and others are benefiting from using it.  That is the point of open source.  It allows others to use your sweat and tears and make something better than what you ever imagined.

People aren’t “stealing” your work…they are extending it.  Imitation is the highest form of flattery.  If you don’t want others to use your work, don’t release it as open source software/hardware/whatever.  Keep it closed and locked away, and I really do feel that your stuff will suffer when an open source solution comes along.  The reason that so many people use the PROC platform is because it is relatively open, and it has a well defined interface.  It has a skeleton framework that others can use to create their own projects.

So why did I get on this rant?  Strangely it is because of Ben Heck.  Ben Heck and Mike from HomePin are having a little tiff.  The PinHeck system I believe was released under the Creative Commons – Share Alike (CC-SA) license.  (That holds many of the same copyleft attributes as GPLv3).  It seems that Mike, or people working for Mike, may have based some of his designs on the PinHeck system.

So a couple quick points.  Under that license you must attribute the original design in some way.  Yada, yada, this is based on such and such.  Regardless of the license, that is the right thing to do.  If that is what happened, just fess up Mike and say it.  There is nothing illegal and lock stock and barrel copying that design and using it for your own purpose because it was released under CC-SA.  Any fixes that he made to the design, he must publish them because it is a copyleft license.

So, I assume when Ben caught wind of this, he pulled the files from the server.  I haven’t looked lately if they are there.  The CC-SA license is irrevocable.  You can’t simply say, sorry, I now don’t want it to be open to the public.  Once open source, it is always open source.  The legal ramifications would be impossible to reconcile since others by design could have based their works on your work.

Pulling things off the server is absurd.  Once on the internet, it is always on the internet.  There is a project called the internet archive that lets you go back in time and find things that people have posted on the internet and then removed.  Even though Ben has removed the content, it is still out there.  I have all the design/art files that Ben posted for America’s Most Haunted (AMH).  They were put out there so others could extend his work and make mods and toppers.  They could even build another AMH if they wanted to spend the time.  They are still readily available on the internet archive.

So that gets me to the last point.  Ben mentioned Charlie caught wind of someone trying to build another AMH.  Maybe it was me, maybe it was somebody else.  The truth is I actually considered it.  Charlie, Ben, you can rest assured, that I have no desire to make an AMH from scratch.  That being said, it would be a technically interesting project, but I don’t feel it is worth the time or effort.

I’m still hoping for somebody to create a completely open source pinball machine from scratch.  Maybe in the next 10 years.

If anybody has more details on the origins of MPF, why Ben pulled the art files, etc, that is more correct, I will be happy to fix the above post or post corrections.  Most of this is third or forth hand information that I’ve gleaned from the internet so it is not very reliable.

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4 responses to “9/29/2017 – Open source is open source

  1. Ben doesn’t care at this point about Mike using his hardware layout / fonts / software, he just wants him to admit he stole it. Ben took the gerber files down a couple years ago when he got wind someone mind be using it for a project. He states very clearly in his readme file that anyone can use it open source for home brew, it is NOT to be used commercially (which homepin is doing).

    As far as AMH files, someone on pinside was planning on building one (not you).. I think that idea died down when AMH pricing calmed down.

  2. So if it is not to be used commercially, the creative commons license must be marked as non-commercial. Adding a read me file, is not sufficient if marked with the incorrect creative commons license. I had read somewhere it was creative commons share alike license. OK, found a Parker quote, “The Pinheck System is under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.” The appropriate link from Parker is here: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/pinball-designers-please-listen/page/3#post-3970284. There is no mention from Parker that it is a non-commercial license, and I don’t believe I saw that on the schematics. (After releasing as CC-SA, it can’t be down classified to CC-NC-SA. That would be be limiting the licensing which is a no no as noted before). You can incidentally relax licensing restriction such as open sourcing previously closed source code as Parallax did for the Descent/Descent 2 video games.

    Producing another AMH seems ludicrous at this point. Technically interesting o try, but reality-wise, not interesting enough to warrant the time it would take. Thanks for the extra info, Joe.

  3. MPF was not branched from or based on the P-ROC or pyprocgame, though the hardware platform modules of MPF that interface with the P-ROC hardware were based on the pyprocgame code that interfaced with the P-ROC (though they’re pretty different now after 3 years of development). Not that it really matters… MPF and pyprocgame are both released under the MIT license.

    We did get some early complaints from some people who didn’t want anything from pyprocgame to be in MPF, but like you, I pointed out that pyprocgame was MIT, and the people who wrote it chose that license on purpose which fully supported derivative works. (Again a hollow complaint since MPF is not a derivative of pyprocgame.) That said, Gerry and Adam, the original authors of pyprocgame, never complained about MPF and were in fact both very supportive. Good move too, as about 50% of MPF projects use a P-ROC!

    • I think that I had heard it was somewhat based off the skeleton HD framework. It could also be due to the fact that I heard you had done a bunch of work on the pyprocgame before MPF was started. Regardless, the MIT license from my recollection is actually more permissive than the Creative Commons license. (It does not include the copyleft clause). As the homebrew community gets stronger and stronger, keeping frameworks open is very important so others can extend and improve. Many people have taken the reigns of different aspects of MPF and have made that framework even better. To your point, while it might not have been branched, your knowledge of pyprocgame helped you to create, extend, and improve what was previously available. A perfect example of how open source better and better software to be created.

      In my opinion, the MPF framework is the most advanced and mature framework. That is a testament to all who worked on it, extended it, fixed bugs in it, and especially the people who had the fore thought to create the open source project so others had something that could be extended. Having a mature framework allows others to focus on design and implementing their vision of a pinball machine. That benefits the whole pinball community instead of forcing everyone to recreate the wheel from scratch.

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