There's been a lot of discussion about the ethics of cloning old designs over the years, and it seems that the Behringer announcement of a Minimoog clone and seemingly inexorable march towards marketing it has stirred up the pot yet again. Therefore I thought that as a manufacturer of modules based on an old system I might as well put down some of my thoughts on the matter.
Firstly, copyright law gives little or no protection to a circuit design. Patents can, but they are expensive to obtain and so are the lawyers needed to enforce them. (As far as I know, Trade Dress (aka the intellectual property concept that protects the Coca-Cola bottle shape) has really only been used recently to try and scare away third party manufacturers from "proprietary" modular formats)
What happened in the synth community until at least years ago was the development of a sort of herd morality, where certain synth designs were viewed as sacrosanct and not to be copied without permission. The cynical amongst us might have seen a bit of a disconnect between the furore that shut down an effort to offer cloned VCS3 PCBs on electro-music (copying a design that was 40 years old and had not been in anything resembling serious production for decades) and cloners immediately and blithely disrespecting Korg's act of goodwill in revealing the circuit of the Korg35 filter core on the condition it not be copied. The fact that only one of the above belonged to a serious investment object was not lost on quite a few people.
Flash forward to this year, and Behringer's announcement they were intending to make bargain-basement clones of long-obsolete monosynths, starting with the Minimoog, and a polarised response between those who wanted a $400 Minimoog for themselves and those who felt it was somehow a violation of Bob Moog's legacy. Like most things, the truth lies somewhere inbetween. Apart from the words "Moog", "Minimoog" and the Moog logo, there is no intellectual property left in a Mini. The company which makes them has no relationship to the original Moog Music apart from acquiring its trademarks. Its creator passed away a decade ago. And yet - there is little expectation that a Behringer clone will anything but reductive, adding nothing to the art of the original but sacrificing quality, and a far cry from Korg's ARP reissues, which were done with the co-operation of ARP principal David Friend.
So where do we fit into all of this? I guess to start with, selecting a system to copy that has been defunct since 1983 with no prospect of semi-official revival and no curation of its legacy by its creator (who incidentally passed away in 2015 while the Capricorn Series was already in development) is one thing. But I also liked Grant Richter's test when developing the Noisering of whether what I do would "advance the state of the art".
The fact that the Aries system seemed to be Denis Collin's lost vision of merging the 2500's philosophy with the 2600's affordability, which deserved more of a legacy, was one thing. But most of all, I felt that the Aries interface, where modules had a massive array of inputs and outputs, could provide a real alternative to a lot of current designs where legacy circuits, regardless of their source or original application, are shoehorned into a default "two audio ins, one V/Oct, one attenuated CV" panel layout. Despite the size shrink from 9" panels to Euro, I feel the Capricorn Series has managed to honour the ergonomics and playability of the original.
As far as the rest goes, we are determined to bring an original slant to the other modules we do. If we do revive another ancient technology which still has its creator's attention, then it will be with their permission and involvement (watch this space ;-) )
Oh and those cloners who copied Korg's old work? I imagine a serious reality check when Korg themselves reissued the MS20. Sometimes the easy, lucrative option is not the safest bet!