Licensing options for firmware

Ian Jackson ijackson at
Tue Apr 5 11:57:32 UTC 2005

Scott Miller writes ("Licensing options for firmware"):
> They would almost certainly not contribute any useful additions to the
> code - most likely the only changes would be the removal of certain features
> and trivial modifications to match their hardware.  And if history is any
> guide, the final product would not have field-upgradable firmware.  Updates
> would require sending the unit in for factory service, so the end users
> would gain no real benefit from the open source license.

You could write a requirement in the licence that the firmware be
field-upgradeable.  For example, you could use the GPL but attach an
additional restriction near section 3, saying that if the program is
distributed as part of a functional product it must be reasonably
practical, and as easy as is practical, for someone who posesses that
product to replace the program with a modified version.

The GPL's requirement to provide the `scripts used to control
compilation and installation of the executable' will then cover the
scripts used to manage installation of the program on the radio, which
you would no doubt include on your CD.

This requirement might well exclude the competitors you are worried
about (who might be unreasonably worried about the lack of control
over the hardware they would be selling).

Note that if you use a modified GPL you cannot reuse any existing
GPL'd software, and other GPL-licenced projects will not be able to
use your software.


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