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NMEA 2000 fees, James Hamilton suggestions

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I just published a profile of Jennifer and James Hamilton and their Nordhavn 52 M/V Dirona...

...and during our email discussions, James -- who has a lot of experience with N2K and tech standards licensing in general -- made the following interesting suggestion about NMEA 2000 fees. I will indeed send it along to the NMEA, but what do you all think?


"I looked up the NMEA2000 price and, you are right, it is lower than the $10k I incorrectly reported (I'm pretty sure I did look it up in the 1999 time frame). It's now "only" $4k for the full doc which is considerably better but still pretty high for a hobbyist or single boat owner.

Arguably $4k is way too low for Furuno and way too high to build a full spectrum ecosystem. Since you talk to NMEA and already have helped make NMEA 2000 more successful, my recommendation having spent time around software licensing which is far from identical but has some similarities would be to make it free for non-commercial users. This helps keep folks compliant since the spec is out there and getting read. People who know the spec will ask gear manufacturers to be compliant. It would help build an ecosystem of hobbyists, experimenters, and start-ups would be more likely to develop compliant products.

I would have three licensing schemes: 1) free for non-commercial, 2) royalty on sales for small scale companies where upfront payments can be difficult and they have no idea if the device will succeed in market (perhaps 1/4% to 1/2% of sales), and 3) over $50k for unrestricted commercial licensees that have a large market to sell into. I'll bet this approach would bring more NMEA revenue, cause more NMEA use, and yield more innovation in devices using NMEA2000. Right now, two things keep happening: 1) NMEA0183 remains the preference for many and it's really not an ideal protocol for cross device data sharing and central logging, and 2) the protocol gets reversed engineered (poorly). If folks like me had licensed the spec on any of the three terms suggested above, I would have also signed on to the licensing restrictions. Probably better for everyone and, in the end, I don't really care and the restrictions don't bother me. I just want to make stuff work quickly and a spec would make my life easier.

Feel free to publish, pass along to NMEA, or even junk any or all of the above. You seemed interested so I wanted to pass on some suggestions since I really like NMEA2000 and use it extensively."

-- James Hamilton

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