OSHW License Guide


Our Recommendation

If you're new to licenses we recommend Creative Commons - Attribution - ShareAlike 3.0 for all hardware, documents, and software. It requires anyone making a derived work to give proper attribution to the original author and to keep any derived works open source.

Open Source Hardware Definition v1.0 has been released and ideally should be followed by all new items.

Runner Ups

If you don't want to require that derived works are kept open source, then you can use Creative Commons - Attribution 3.0 (we lean more toward a share-the-wealth model where open source ideas always stay open source, but it's your call).

Also, if for any reason you want to make sure that people don't attribute derived works to you, there is the Modified BSD License. All Creative Commons licenses required that attribution is given "in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work)", but if want to keep your name completely out of it the Modified BSD may be the way to go.

Not Recommended

Other popular licenses are Creative Commons-Attribution-NonCommercial, Creative Commons-Attribution-NoDerivs, GPL, and LGPL, but the restrictions on these licenses can potentially make it very difficult for makers to innovate and feed derived works back into the community. For this reason we don't recommend these licenses.

Other Licenses

There are lots of great open source hardware and software licenses. We choose the licenses in the guide to make things simple, but you can always use any license that meets the Open Source Hardware Definition v1.0.

License Quick Comparison Chart

License MIT License Simplified BSD License Modified BSD License Creative Commons - Attribution 3.0 Creative Commons - Attribution - ShareAlike 3.0 TAPR Open Hardware License (OHL) GPL/LGPL
Creator attribution Optional Optional Not permitted Required Required Optional Not permitted
Derived works must remain open source No No No No Yes Yes Yes
Derived work can have a different license type Yes (must maintain copyright & permissions) Yes (must maintain copyright conditions & disclaimer) Yes (must maintain copyright conditions & disclaimer) Yes Yes No No
Derived work can be sold for profit Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Patent restrictions No No No No No No Yes

MIT License

Applications

Hardware, Documents & Files, Software

Benefits

Open license. Provides basic liability protections. Requires that the associated copyright notice is included in derived works. Roughly equivalent to the the Simplified BSD License. Similar to the Modified BSD License, except does not prohibit the use of the name of the copyright holder in promotion.

License

Copyright (c) <year> <copyright holders>

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this hardware, software, and associated documentation files (the "Product"), to deal in the Product without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Product, and to permit persons to whom the Product is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Product.

THE PRODUCT IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE PRODUCT OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE PRODUCT.

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Simplified BSD License

Applications

Hardware, Documents & Files, Software

Benefits

Open license. Provides basic liability protections. Requires that the associated copyright notice is included in derived works. Approved as an Open Source License by the Open Source Initiative (OSI). Roughly equivalent to the the MIT License. Similar to the Modified BSD License, except does not prohibit the use of the name of the copyright holder in promotion.

License

Copyright <year> <copyright holder>. All rights reserved.

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

  1. Redistributions of product specifications, source code, and documentation must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
  2. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.

THIS PRODUCT IS PROVIDED BY <COPYRIGHT HOLDER> "AS IS" AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL <COPYRIGHT HOLDER> OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS PRODUCT, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

The views and conclusions contained in the hardware, software, and documentation are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing official policies, either expressed or implied, of <copyright holder>.

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Modified BSD License

Applications

Hardware, Documents & Files, Software

Benefits

Open license. Provides basic liability protections. Unlike the MIT License and Modified BSD License it does prohibit the use of the name of the copyright holder in promotion. Also requires that the associated copyright notice is included in derived works.

License

Copyright (c) <year> <copyright holder>. All rights reserved.

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

  • Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
  • Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
  • Neither the name of the <organization> nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this product without specific prior written permission.

THIS PRODUCT IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS "AS IS" AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL <COPYRIGHT HOLDER> BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS PRODUCT, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

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Creative Commons - Attribution 3.0

Applications

Hardware, Documents & Files, Software

Benefits

Open license. Provides basic liability protections. Requires that the attribution is given on derived works.

License

This is a human-readable summary of the full license below.

You are free:
  • to Share—to copy, distribute and transmit the work, and
  • to Remix—to adapt the work
Under the following conditions:
  • Attribution—You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work.)
With the understanding that:
  • Waiver—Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
  • Other Rights—In no way are any of the following rights affected by the license:
    • your fair dealing or fair use rights;
    • the author's moral rights; and
    • rights other persons may have either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.
  • Notice—For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do that is with a link to http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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Creative Commons - Attribution - ShareAlike 3.0

Applications

Hardware, Documents & Files, Software

Benefits

Open license. Provides basic liability protections. Requires that the attribution is given on derived works and that derived works remain open source.

License

This is a human-readable summary of the full license below.

You are free:
  • to Share—to copy, distribute and transmit the work, and
  • to Remix—to adapt the work
Under the following conditions:
  • Attribution—You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work.)
  • Share Alike—If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same, similar or a compatible license.
With the understanding that:
  • Waiver—Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
  • Other Rights—In no way are any of the following rights affected by the license:
    • your fair dealing or fair use rights;
    • the author's moral rights; and
    • rights other persons may have either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.
  • Notice—For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do that is with a link to http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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TAPR Open Hardware License (OHL)

Applications

Hardware, Documents & Files

Benefits

Specifically designed for open hardware, and avoids the issues other licenses have with focusing on copyright protecting documentation instead of the right to make, distribute, or use a product based on that documentation. Requires that all derived works use the same license and include before and after documentation if any changes were made.

License

Visit the TAPR website for the full text of the TAPR Open Hardware License (OHL). The numbered sections of the agreement take precedence over this preamble.

  • You may modify the documentation and make products based upon it.
  • You may use products for any legal purpose without limitation.
  • You may distribute unmodified documentation, but you must include the complete package as you received it.
  • You may distribute products you make to third parties, if you either include the documentation on which the product is based, or make it available without charge for at least three years to anyone who requests it.
  • You may distribute modified documentation or products based on it, if you:
    • License your modifications under the OHL.
    • Include those modifications, following the requirements stated below.
    • Attempt to send the modified documentation by email to any of the developers who have provided their email address. This is a good faith obligation -- if the email fails, you need do nothing more and may go on with your distribution.
  • If you create a design that you want to license under the OHL, you should:
    • Include the OHL document in a file named LICENSE.TXT (or LICENSE.PDF) that is included in the documentation package.
    • If the file format allows, include a notice like "Licensed under the TAPR Open Hardware License (www.tapr.org/OHL)" in each documentation file. While not required, you should also include this notice on printed circuit board artwork and the product itself; if space is limited the notice can be shortened or abbreviated.
    • Include a copyright notice in each file and on printed circuit board artwork.
    • If you wish to be notified of modifications that others may make, include your email address in a file named "CONTRIB.TXT" or something similar.
  • Any time the OHL requires you to make documentation available to others, you must include all the materials you received from the upstream licensors. In addition, if you have modified the documentation:
    • You must identify the modifications in a text file (preferably named "CHANGES.TXT") that you include with the documentation. That file must also include a statement like "These modifications are licensed under the TAPR Open Hardware License."
    • You must include any new files you created, including any manufacturing files (such as Gerber files) you create in the course of making products.
    • You must include both "before" and "after" versions of all files you modified.
    • You may include files in proprietary formats, but you must also include open format versions (such as Gerber, ASCII, Postscript, or PDF) if your tools can create them.
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Open Source Hardware Definition v1.0

Details of the Open Source Hardware Definition v1.0 can be found on Freedom Defined's website.

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Open Source Hardware (DRAFT) Definition v0.3

Details of the Open Source Hardware (DRAFT) Definition v0.3 can be found on Freedom Defined's website.

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Open Hardware Definition v1.0 InMojo supports the Open Source Hardware Definition v1.0