[gta02-core] [maddog at li.org: Re: gta02-core open hardware community project needs a foundation]

Werner Almesberger werner at openmoko.org
Sat Apr 3 05:13:57 CEST 2010

Rafael Ignacio Zurita wrote:
>   I forward this short chat with Jon about the thread
> "wanted: cashier for gta02-core".. I also CC him because 
> he is interested to be included in the conversation.

Thanks ! Yes, the cashier role is still something we need to fill.

Please just let me clarify the purpose of an organization: for now,
it would just something to set up if necessary to protect the
cashier's own assets to become confused with the money handled for
gta02-core. More specifically, to make it clear that this is not
"income" of the cashier (which would be subject to declaration and
a lot of tax).

If the cashier can do things without setting up an organization,
then we don't need one.

The cashier's basic tasks would be:

- receive donations made towards component purchases and related
  services (e.g., PCB making)

- pay invoices for the above purposes. All the purchase process
  would happen in public, e.g., discussed on the gta02-core list,
  and with invoices kept in SVN.

  Payment would probably always be by SWIFT directly to the

- publicly provide information on transactions in and out (e.g.,
  by posting to the list or maybe maintaining a log of
  transactions in SVN.)

- do what is necessary to comply with tax regulations affecting
  the cashier's role

We'll also have to see how to handle payment for the prototypes.
I.e., I don't expect donations to cover all the financial needs of
the project, so each recipient of a prototype will have to pay for
his or her share of the balance.

It would only be logical for the cashier to process these payments
as well, be they in the form of "pay before production", with some
money lent to the project for making purchases and then returned,
or some mixture thereof.

When the project closes, the balance of all transactions should be
zero. Any remaining assets (e.g., unused components) should have a
negligible value and we could just abandon them.

Also, the scope of all this may get extended, but only after public
discussion and if the cashier agrees.

> From: Jon 'maddog' Hall <maddog at li.org>
> There are several real issues, including a "non-profit" organization
> taking in tax-free donations, then paying them out to a (potentially)
> profit-making entity.  It would be a lot of work for the organization.

I must confess my ignorance on the details of such processes. I
would think that this happens all the time, e.g., some "club",
"Verein", "association", or whatever you call it receiving money
they spend on common projects.

What may make our case a bit more complicated is that there's
something at the end that people get back individually, i.e., the
prototypes. So it's not like a group of enthusiasts fixing an old
steam locomotive that then remains the club's property, but more
like OpenPandora.

OpenPandora is organized as an Ltd. If something like this is the
most efficient way to run such an operation, so be it.

Oh, and regarding "tax-free", I think there are at least the
following taxes to distinguish:

- taxes on the donor's side. E.g., if donating to a charity, the
  donor may be able to deduce the donation from his or her own

  My understanding is that this status is difficult to achieve,
  so this would be beyond our scope.

- taxes on the cashier. We wouldn't want any of this to look like
  undeclared income of the cashier, or have the cashier declare it
  as income and pay the usual heavy taxes and fees on it.

- taxes on the organization. Taxes on money that flows through the
  organization may also be subject to certain taxes.

  These may be difficult if not impossible to avoid, but they
  should also be low, considering that no money or assets stay in
  the organization for long.

> One other issue is that I am not sure that "Openmoko" has one voice that
> says what Openmoko believes and stands for.  There seems to be no real
> agreement what an "open phone" is, how the entity would be run, and how
> the money would be spent:

I wouldn't use "Openmoko" but just limit this to the "gta02-core"
project. The goal is simply to handle the financial side of putting
together these prototypes.

If anything more substantial is to follow the work of gta02-core,
we'd have to rethink these issues, but there's little practical
value in planning administrative offices of Global Chicken Farms
United while all we have is a small basket of eggs.

> o Open specs, or gratis specs?

Hmm, the GTA02 design all this is based on is in a way part of the
specification. The things released by Openmoko Inc. are CC-BY-SA or

The specification work done in gta02-core is more of an input ...
so "pieced together, bazaar-style, and with a fair dose of
benevolent dictatorship" may describe it best :-)

> o Open circuit design or gratis circuit design

Open and gratis, as in GPL or CC-BY-SA. (Copyright remains with the

> o do some people get paid?

Not by the project. Neither for their work nor for their personal
expenses (travel or such). I would also try to avoid other forms
of reimbursements, such as someone paying something with a credit
card and then getting reimbursed by the project.

Again, such things can be changed, as long as there's agreement on
the need and as long as the cashier is comfortable with it.

All this legal stuff seems complicated, but then there are
something like half a million registered associations in Germany
alone, then some 1.5 millions in the US, etc., so there must be a
whole army of people who are at least familiar with the basics.

- Werner

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