While researching building an aircraft using CAD and homebuilt CNC machines I have ended up with my test subject, a late 1960's design, nearly complete for cutting. The only thing stopping me is the next step, building the two CNC machines to do the actual cutting. I expect to have them completed and calibrated by late Fall 2012.
So, here comes my question to those who dabble in the legal side of aviation; it would be a shame to waste this effort on a single build, can I use this to help others who want to build the same aircraft? I would love to add to the community!
The problems arise even before we get to liability and those sorts of buzz killing questions!
First, I don't own the design. The designer flew west about 10 years ago. A “popular aircraft parts supplier” and EAA were left as the "official" resellers of the plans and I assume his estate gets the profits.
The actual work I have is in two parts, the CAD files and the G-Code (the machine instructions to do the actual cutting). Both of these parts are actually violation of the copyrights, should I choose to distribute them. Truthfully, I have no desire to distribute these parts as they are kind of like a "secret sauce," no different than the Col. Sander's chicken recipe!
What I would love to do is write a more up to date guide to cutting and assembly using the CAD files to animate the illustrations. Give the builder a 3D and moving set of plans if you will. This guide would be on BluRay disc because it has proven to be copy safe and is an accepted format for distribution. I would also use the BluRay Live features to integrate with a Web site to institute updates and error corrections (as well as eliminate reselling of the discs).
So, legally, this would be a work based on the original design, meant to enhance the builders experience but not add to the original design. How would I go about getting this to mesh with the older design's copyright? Buy a copy of the plans from EAA each time someone buys the disc or sell the disc through EAA and they take their cut accordingly?
Also, what would be my exposure to liability in this "value added" scenario?
Now, let's say I wanted to go a step further and offer a service to actually cut the parts from the raw material for the builder. After all, CNC machines only make since when they are run 24/7, right?
This would be the old airplane model thing where the part would almost be cut out with little tabs still holding it into the sheet of plywood. The spars would have all the holes in the correct places so for the most part, everything is loosened with a Dremel tool and ready to be finished with sand paper and glued into place.
I guess the builder would buy the wood kit from the "popular aircraft supply company" and have it shipped to me to cut and reshipped to wherever the builder is. Sounds costly and error prone!
I might also do wing kits (the design is so simple that the left and right wings are identical, just assembled in the reverse order) and a fuselage kit but all that sounds harder.
So legally, I know my exposure goes up considerably with cutting or the kits. Is there a way to protect myself in this day and age or am I putting a gun to my head and pulling the trigger?
Also, what happens with the original holders of the design when I do a cutting service or a kit? Does EAA and the "popular aircraft supply company" sudden come in and get a percentage of the kit? Don't get me wrong, I love to share, especially if it helps EAA out but this is meant to put people in aircraft with as low of an entry price point as is possible. Once you have the raw material cost, shipping, liability, copyright holders it sounds like I have a $200K kit that's worth only $5k!
Sounds like everything is too expensive and I should give up on this little dream....
Thanks for any insight you may have.