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    It's been a while, hasn't it? Well, that's ok because we've got a lot of updates to talk about. Most of these have been effective on the site fora couple weeks now. A few may or may not be active when this article gets posted, but they'll certainly be applied in the ...

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OSH Licensing


Open-source hardware is so new, most people don't even know what it is. The concept of open-source software has been around for quite a while. Its software where the source code is freely available, and the tools necessary to compile and use it are also freely available. Open-source hardware is, well, still being defined. The Open Source Hardware Definition 1.0 was released fairly recently (February 2011), and the version number tacked on to the end seems to imply that the writer's expect to have to modify it.

With that being said, let's dive into the wacky world of open-source hardware licensing. Did you know that there are over 13 different licenses you could use when publishing your open-source hardware projects? Which one is the right one for you? That line of questioning is one that you won't be able to coax to a conclusion without a lot of legwork. The language that the licenses are written in is pretty dense and not easy to understand.

Additionally, a lot of those licenses have different requirements. For example, beyond stating that your project is licensed under the TAPR OHL v1.0 license, you have to include the license text in a LICENSE file, include the notice "Licensed under the TAPR Open Hardware License (www.tapr.org/OHL)" in each documentation file and on each circuit board's silk screen layer, and include a copyright notice in each file and on each circuit board's silk screen layer. And that's just the bare minimum! If you want to be notified of modifications that others make, you have to include your email address in a CONTRIB file.

On top of all that, if your open source hardware project is based on someone else's project, then your choice of license is probably predefined. A lot of licenses require that any derivative projects use the same license as the base project. That means not only do you have to know how to comply with your license of choice but the license of choice of everyone else, too! Things get even messier if you've modified a TAPR OHL v1.0 licensed project. You have to identify all modifications that you made in a CHANGES file, include both "before" and "after" versions of any files you modified, and if you use any proprietary file formats, you have to provide open format versions, too.

Complying with open-source hardware licenses is not easy. It's a big task, and it's not something to be taken lightly. For the moment, Open Hardware Hub's policy is to leave any licensing completely up to the user. We don't give you a set of option boxes for you tick off whatever license you want because we don't want to mislead our users into thinking that checking that box is the end of their licensing responsibilities. We'd really like to be able to provide a service that enables users to check that box and have all the requirements for that license automatically fulfilled by us, but until that happens, we're leaving licensing up to our users.

Licensing is serious business, and we know that. We're taking a hands-off approach to the issue because when we make a move in that space, we want to be able to do things right.


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