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Thread: Open Source Plans

  1. #1

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    Open Source Plans

    The plans built aircraft I'm building already has a number of versions or models. None of the versions have a method of updating the drawings that I know of. In some cases the plans are fairly vague and have some errors. This doesn't present a problem for savvy builders as they come up with solutions of their own. Common advise is that unless you're a experienced builder this is not an easy project to tackle.

    During my build (not complete) I spent a lot of time with AutoCAD filling in the missing pieces and verifying the measurements. I used CNC to produce a lot of the parts. This is a plans build project so every fitting needs to be manufactured. I also borrowed some of the common methods for assemblies from other aircraft including CUBS and VANS models. I ended up with a set of as-built plans with a lot of the missing details and verified measurements plus drawings to CNC manufacture parts.

    I don't want to create yet another model but the drawings could help other builders. I was thinking of releasing the plans free of charge. Similar to Open Source software. Think Android, Linux or Firefox. All are Open Source. The idea is that anyone can use the plans with no conditions. The drawings could be maintained by one or more people or managed by an association so that there is continuity.

    Some questions came up. I'm looking for comments.

    • The drawings wouldn't have a serial number. Can someone use them to build an aircraft and make up their own serial number to register it?
      • not a problem for me, just wondering.
      • I was thinking the builder would purchase a set of plans with s/n and use these plans as a supplement to help his build.

    • Am I violating anyone's copyrights here. If the plans have a copyright symbol are the plans copyrighted or is it just the name? With that in mind;
      • All the versions were a copy of the original idea with some style changes
      • The original borrowed heavily from other aircraft
      • A lot of the assemblies are common among aircraft. ie: wings have spars, ribs, compression tubes and drag/antidrag wires


  2. #2
    Dana's Avatar
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    Not a lawyer, but I'd think that without permission from the copyright holder you'd be in violation of copyright law. Serial number has nothing to do with it a builder (from legitimate plans) can use the plans number or not, as he chooses.

    If you're just documenting unclear areas on the plans and you couldn't build a plane without also having the originals, that would be different... but getting approval from the copyright holder would still be the right thing to do.

  3. #3
    Airmutt's Avatar
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    There would be nothing wrong providing a plans supplement. It has been done before. In the early KR2 days a gent named Gillespie sold a enhancement package that was mostly engineering improvements to the design. Obviously one could not build a KR2 without purchasing a set from Rand. There is also a series of Pietenpol mods such as front pax door and center section fuel tank available for a price that are not associated with the Pietenpol family.
    Dave Shaw
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  4. #4

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    A couple of opposing views. Got me thinking. I also did get some local feed back. One example given was a map. It's difficult to create a new map without using other maps. A map is copyrighted but for the most part the information used to create the map is obtained from other maps. Another example is that a book is copyrighted but you can write the same story without infringing on the book's copyright as long as the second story is original work. UNIX sued Linux as the two operating system do the same thing and the apps are interchangeable. Linux was written to do the same thing as UNIX. It was discovered that very little of the code for the two programs were similar. UNIX lost their case as it was proved that nothing was copied.

    With that in mind, I think if someone draws some airplane plans and the airplane looks very similar to another there is no copyright infringement. The copyright would only exist if the original plans were copied verbatim.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by mmarien View Post
    A couple of opposing views. Got me thinking. I also did get some local feed back. One example given was a map. It's difficult to create a new map without using other maps. A map is copyrighted but for the most part the information used to create the map is obtained from other maps. Another example is that a book is copyrighted but you can write the same story without infringing on the book's copyright as long as the second story is original work. UNIX sued Linux as the two operating system do the same thing and the apps are interchangeable. Linux was written to do the same thing as UNIX. It was discovered that very little of the code for the two programs were similar. UNIX lost their case as it was proved that nothing was copied.

    With that in mind, I think if someone draws some airplane plans and the airplane looks very similar to another there is no copyright infringement. The copyright would only exist if the original plans were copied verbatim.
    It kind of sounds like you were going to come to that conclusion no matter what we replied and you just wanted validation? I would spend the $100 on an attorneys opinion before making them open source. It might save you $10,000 down the line if the copyright holder comes after you. Who was the original designer? Some are more laid back than others, while some are very legal happy.

  6. #6
    Dana's Avatar
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    A new design that "looks very similar" is one thing, a copy with identical structure (or with very minor changes) is another. If your copy would make it possible for somebody to build a new plane without buying the plans from the rightful owner, I'd say it's wrong, whether technically legal or not. As Airmutt said, nothing wrong with providing a plans supplement, but clearing it with the owner as a courtesy is still the right thing to do.

    Maps... most commercially published maps include at least one intentional minor error. If another map comes out with the identical error, the original publisher has good grounds for a copyright infringement suit.

  7. #7
    Airmutt's Avatar
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    There is also the potential of a design patent that protects the ornamental design of an object. The Coke bottle is a good example. You can’t just copy the bottle and put your own logo on it. Some designers have design patents on their aircraft so designing/building a clone could be trouble. Ages ago Pitts got into it with Steen over his Skybolt design.

    A perfect set of plans in the EAB world is a very rare thing. Almost every design have mistakes somewhere or is short on construction details. If you’re taking someone’s plans set and ”filling in details” on top of their drawings you may be headed for trouble or at least open to criticism.

    If you stick with the supplement concept, it’s your original work and you side step a lot of problems. Working with the plans owner could be a win-win scenario.
    Dave Shaw
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  8. #8
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana View Post
    Maps... most commercially published maps include at least one intentional minor error. If another map comes out with the identical error, the original publisher has good grounds for a copyright infringement suit.
    ~30 years ago, I wrote an article about aircraft bolts. Using standard reference materials, I drew up a diagram that showed the different markings on the heads. I noticed that a couple of the markings incorporated the names of companies. So on my version, I used the names of a couple of friends for the companies.

    Since then, I've seen several other folks' articles about the same subject. Surprisingly, all of them seem to know Bill Robie, Gregory Peck, or Terry Dazey as well. :-)

    http://www.wanttaja.com/shopsheets/B...20MARKINGS.JPG

    I'm not offended, and I don't I think they violated any copyright I might hold. Doesn't take much to draw a hexagon to represent a bolt head and populate it with the appropriate markings. It's just they didn't make the same mental leap about the names on the heads....

    Ron "Squarehead, not hex head" Wanttaja

  9. #9

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    Patents are a different thing. I think there is another thread here that talks about patents. I don't believe there is a patent infringement here. All the CUB copies would be in trouble is there was a patent on the CUB. I wonder how many of them cleared it with Piper before they started producing their own copy? My project is NOT a CUB.

    I think I got some direction here, directly and indirectly. I was thinking that if I released the plans without a serial number they couldn't be used to register an aircraft and wouldn't interfere with anybody making a commercial venture from selling the plans. But that doesn't look like the case as noted by Dana.

    A little background about the airplane. The original builder (now gone) built the airplane purely for recreation. I don't believe he made a commercial venture out of it. But people liked the airplane, so somebody produced a set of plans so that others could build it. Then came some other variations. At least one of those was a commercial venture for a while. I don't think they asked the original builder for permission.

    The problem as I mentioned in my original post is that there is no support. Builders come up with problems or errors in the plans and post it on a forum. But it takes lots of research for a builder to discover the fixes. It's a great way to stall a project. In a lot of cases when too many problems accumulate the builder simply gives up. If there was a set of plans that are supported from suggestions from the builders and kept updated perhaps more projects would be completed.

    Where I was going with this is to offer a way to put the plans into the public domain so that there was a way for the airplane to be supported without having to have a commercial venture to support it. Perhaps experimental aircraft isn't ready for open source.

  10. #10
    Airmutt's Avatar
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    I’m going to disagree with Dana. John Grega updated the Pietenpol and sold plans as the GN-1 Aircamper for years until he passed away. The Nesmith Cougar was a clone of the Wittman Tailwind. I believe you’ll find that the rights were given to EAA and they offered Cougar plans for a while. Heck, the Pober Pixie by Paul P is an updated clone of the Heath Parasol, but I think EAA owns the rights. Paul also cloned the Corbin Junior and Super Ace. He owned the plans rights but someone bought the Baby and Junior Ace rights and I don’t know the timing of all that. So yes, it’s been done before, but we played nicer together back then.

    All this talk about patents etc comes down to one thing.... the originator’s motivation and ability to enforce. Piper has gone through some turbulent times and struggled just to stay in business much less drag folks into court over a design they stopped producing 40+ years ago. Wag Aero started the Cub clone craze. You’ll note they originally called it the Cubby but it’s now referred to as the Sport Trainer.
    Dave Shaw
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    Learn to Build, Build to Fly, Fly for Fun

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