Hackerspaces Global Space Program/Legal

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Rather than creating a new license, some open source hardware projects simply use existing, open source software licenses.[1]

Additionally, several new licenses have been proposed. These licenses are designed to address issues specific to hardware designs.[2] In these licenses, many of the fundamental principles expressed in open source software (OSS) licenses have been "ported" to their counterpart hardware projects. Organizations tend to rally around a shared license. For example, Opencores prefers the LGPL,[3] FreeCores insists on the GPL,[4] Open Hardware Foundation promotes "copyleft" or other permissive licenses",[5] the Open Graphics Project uses a variety of licenses, including the MIT license, GPL, and a proprietary license,[6] and the Balloon Project wrote their own license.[7] New hardware licenses are often explained as the "hardware equivalent" of a well-known OSS license, such as the GPL, LGPL, or BSD license.

Despite superficial similarities to software licenses, most hardware licenses are fundamentally different: by nature, they typically rely more heavily on patent law than on copyright law. Whereas a copyright license may control the distribution of the source code or design documents, a patent license may control the use and manufacturing of the physical device built from the design documents. This distinction is explicitly mentioned in the preamble of the TAPR Open Hardware License.

"...those who benefit from an OHL design may not bring lawsuits claiming that design infringes their patents or other intellectual property."[8]

Noteworthy licenses[edit]



  • How to ensure ownership of rights to projects?
  • Should projects adhere to a certain set of licenses to be considered eligible? If so, which ones?
  • From OpenCollector's "License Zone": GPL used by Free Model Foundry and ESA Sparc; other licenses used by Free-IP Project, LART (defunct), GNUBook (defunct).
  • For a nearly-comprehensive list of licenses, see OpenCollector's "license zone"
  • Item #2.4 "Who owns opencores?", from Opencores.org FAQ, retrieved 25 November 2008
  • FreeCores Main Page, retrieved 25 November 2008
  • Open Hardware Foundation, main page, retrieved 25 November 2008
  • See "Are we going to get the 'source' for what is on the FPGA also?" in the Open Graphics Project FAQ, retrieved 25 November 2008
  • Balloon License, from balloonboard.org
  • TAPR Open Hardware License website; see also the license text itself, both retrieved 25 November 2008
  • transcript of all comments, hosted on technocrat.net
  • http://www.ohwr.org/cernohl