Stove construction as well as other Do It Yourself web sites are great. They provide invaluable information for the outdoors community and allow anyone who is interested - the ability build some pretty useful gear. Other DIYers are often inspired by these ideas or simply combine different ideas and create new or improved techniques and/or useful gear. And so the cycle of gear evolution progresses. Many of the original primitive stoves presented on the internet have become quite sophisticated and are now far better suited for certain needs, whether it be ease of construction, better efficiency, lighter weight, or just improved aesthetics.
People are driven to share/publish their ideas for various reasons. If not just compelled by the same sort of madness afflicting collectors and hobbyists, publishing ideas may be a means to seek artistic expression, something to do, fame, acknowledgement, and sometimes even respect. Others are more altruistic and feel that sharing their ideas will help enable others to hike longer, with greater ease and/or more economically. A few are goal oriented, driven by the challenge to develop and publish a better widget design. Then there are the tinkerers - heads constantly assembling and constructing all sorts of inventions - Picassos with tin snips.
Blessed are the tinkerers for all that they share with the world.
One of the common sentiments shared by many of those who publish their ideas on the internet is that these ideas should be freely used by individuals, but not for commercial purposes. This is understandable since many hiking DIYers are often idealist with Marxist tendencies, and associate commercialism as a great evil we can all do without. It is also easy to appreciate how someone would feel embittered if they shared a great idea with others and someone took that idea and made an exorbitant amount of wealth from it and went on to live an extravagant lifestyle similar to that of some disgusting celebrity (again - those Marxist tendencies surfacing from the subconscious).
Is it unethical to use information on the internet to make and sell stoves to the public? That is an arguable point. There are some angry inventors and many more sympathizers out there that are very upset at the Ebay alcohol stove merchants, Antigravity.com and other commercialists. Other's feel that it's great that they can pay less than US$20 for a functional stove that they don't feel they have the talent, time or skills to make themselves. Money also motivates some to build better gear, which can end up being a nice twist for those wanting more functional equipment.
This is a noncommercial site that in no way profits from the manufacture and sales of stoves. If you are one of the manufacturers out there that have profited off of this or a similar site, well good for you. If you profited off of this site and have a better stove for all of us, then consider showing us how to make it ourselves and give back to the community in some way.
Ownership of Original Thought
Another ethical issue with publishing gear ideas on the internet, is ownership of ideas. There is so much craft art out there, that most stove ideas are related to, similar to or even identical to many others already published. Just look at the links list on this site, and compare the various stoves - some are more or less identical, and the majority of the rest are very similar to each other in some way.
Is it ethical to publish a new idea without researching and crediting all the similar creations out there? Many feel that you should not only credit all other similar ideas but also get the permission of the their creators prior to publishing your idea. Factor in that several people will inevitably develop similar, if not identical, inventions independent of each other and ownership of ideas becomes quite difficult.
This site has attempted to produce a decent credits page, but it's not an easy endeavor.
A copyright is a form of intellectual property which secures to its holder the exclusive right to produce copies of his or her works of original expression, such as a literary work, movie, musical work or sound recording, painting, computer program, or industrial design, for a defined, yet extendable, period of time.
According to the US Copyright Office, copyrights do not cover "ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration" - only the particular expressions of such.
It can be illegal to take an image or exact text (without quoting it) from a copyrighted web page , but it seems to be common practice on the internet. These infringements are particularly true for photos and descriptions provided by manufactures. But is is also unlikely that a marketing company for a manufacturer is going to complain about free advertisement.
So, can you take a design from this site or one linked to it, tweak something and publish it as your own design? You wouldn't be the first to do so. But if you go to the trouble of setting up a web site and putting your name on a stove design, why not use some of that effort to make a novel idea that others might actually have a use for?
Is it ok to make a stove that looks like or is identical to one that is patented?
By the original intent of the law no:
35 U.S.C. §271. Infringement of patent
Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.
Whoever actively induces infringement of a patent shall be liable as an infringer.
Whoever offers to sell, or sells within the United States or imports into the United States a component of a patented machine, manufacture, combination or composition, or a material or apparatus for use in practicing a patented process, constituting a material part of the invention, knowing the same to be especially made or especially adapted for use in an infringement of such patent, and not a staple article or commodity of commerce suitable for substantial noninfringing use, shall be liable as a contributory infringer.
But according to later court cases - yes - as long you follow some guidelines:
You should be covered by "an experiment with a patented article for the sole purpose of gratifying a philosophical taste, or curiosity, or for mere amusement is not an infringement of the rights of the patentee."1
And when an invention is "made or used as an experiment, whether for the gratification of scientific tastes, or for curiosity, or for amusement, the interests of the patentee are not antagonized[.]"2
1. Peppenhausen v. Falke, 19 Fed. Cas. 1048, 1049 (C.C.S.D.N.Y. 1861) (No. 11,279).
2. W. Robinson, The Law of Patents for Useful Inventions §898 (1890).
If you want to have fun stoving, go for it. If you decide to make a bunch of stoves that look just like one you can find in a store and sell them, you're looking for trouble.
In reality, knowledge and ideas shared on the net become the the property of all those who have access to the internet. If you publish an idea, expect others to use that idea, whether for personal or commercial use. Hopefully, your idea will be put to good use and perhaps inspire others who improve upon it and share with the rest of us.
Community of Sharing
There are only so many ways you can make a stove out of some cans. It is very common for someone to develop a great idea, to later find that an almost identical idea was posted on a web page he/she has never visited. This can be difficult and rather disappointing to those hoping to gain credit for their own invention. It's even worse when someone creates an idea, shares it on the web and is later accused of stealing someone else's idea.
If you feel you have a genuinely unique idea, there's a chance that it may already be out there one the public domain - but either way - the the hiking community would still love to hear about it. If you have profited from shared ideas on the internet and have an idea of your own that others may benefit from, it may be unethical not to share it.
Some feel that linking to or mentioning a website that you have found is in some way is intellectual theft. This is ridiculous as linking to other sites is the foundation of the internet, provides others with easy access to information and in no way constitutes as "theft." If you are a webmaster and published something on the world wide web - expect others to visit your site and even link to it if they feel there is valuable information there.
Stoving should be fun and never an ethical nightmare. This and other DIY sites are for all to enjoy and benefit from. As long as one doesn't intend on taking credit for another's work - build away and Happy Stoving!
Please feel free to link to this site so that others can find it. It's easy to link to this site - simply copy the text below onto your web page or see How to Link To Zen Stoves for other linking options.
Zen Backpacking Stoves
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