Open Hardware Licenses

  • Admin

    I recently received a question about adding CC-BY-NC-SA to the list of licences to choose from on

    This is actually an interesting question I think we all should discuss here. What is a valid open hardware license?

    Initially I actually added the a couple of -NC (none commercial) variants to the list but later removed them after reading up on licences and open hardware.

    Here's a few articles on the subject:

    So what do you think? Should we have NC on the list? Why/Why not? Have I missed some other valid open hardware license?

    This is the current list:
    0_1453996570582_Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 16.55.38.png

  • Hardware Contributor

    @Hek : that is a very interesting topic. A question I am asking myself too (about the NC).
    I have read your links.
    In my opinion, I am not expert, I completely agree with your links : true open hardware would be CERN or CC-BY-SA. They seems rather identical (not completely sure). The SA could be less open maybe...but in the other hand i would say it is a minimal respect for original author to keep the license lineage. What I don't know, maybe noob question, is what to do for instance if you use part from two different open license. I am not in that case but it makes me curious.

    For NC. Not easy...and it's well explained in your links..about the feelings, the pros and cons. on some points I disagree a little bit. About the fact that if someone want to use it and sell, it wouldn't do really depends I think, on the application domain, and market, concurrence, effervescence. IOT is very fast market!

    And sure, it is not difficult to take a schematic, make a board, a great package and sell it. Who will check inside if it is exactly the same circuit. So, I think NC is "useless"...if you don't want anyone sell it, don't show it, simple. and if it's something really not new like basic sensors, or multisensors, light dimmer...nothing new, NC is completely useless. What protect? the box format?? But the community side is better strategy in this case.

    In other hand, if you have a great circuit that can steal power from AC lines to make a one AC wire dimmer, or have an other circuit like being able to sense soil moisture whithout corrosion of electrode, which is innovative. I would say patent it, or maybe NC 😉 but company if they want can explore, hack, sell it and you don't know, or modify to their own sauce, adding something new. It works they patent. You are not alone on the market. That is business!

    I don't know if I really answer to your question 😉 Very personal answer. For the moment, I stay with CERN, and community team spirit..and if I would really want to do business on something, first I would try to have the best competitive thing, let less marge of innovation, and I would wait for the products being finished before releasing files. Not my case for the moment 😄

  • The references cited do list quite a few arguments for not using NC and I think those are relevant.

    These items are made by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. Companies need to make money and they will not make heaps on something like this. Most of all open source items are small things which will not rock the world and if any manufacturer needs something similar they will earn more money on an own solution.

    And the Chinese will copy any interesting solution whether marked NC or not 🙂

  • Hardware Contributor

    Someone should make a flowchart... with all options and arrows pointing to what license you want to use.
    I tried to read... much i dont understand.

    • Copyleft license or not?
    • licensed work for commercial purposes ?

    Maybe we could start with adding differences between them, or questions hardware designers needs to answer.

  • Contest Winner

    I also think it is important to emphasize the requirements on each license when it comes to how/what artifacts are expected to be bundled with the design. CERN for instance require some files, a changelog and such. A license is useless if it is being mistreated. These requirements could also deter some from using a particular license.

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