Licensing options for firmware

scott at scott at
Wed Apr 6 16:26:30 UTC 2005

I read over the paper, and it seems to me that the key in dual licensing is
the requirement for code sharing under the free license.  In my case, this
has no teeth - my code would almost certainly be used in a separate module,
probably connected to the rest of the device through a header or flex cable
jumper.  The interface with the radio's controller, if any, would be a
simple serial link.

There'd be nothing for them to disclose.  No added value, and no freeing of
proprietary code.  With that in mind, I'm considering a couple of

1. Must provide complete schematics and parts lists for devices implementing
the code

2. When used as a module or subassembly of a larger device, the whole device
will be considered a combined work, subject to the same disclosure

Number two would be a killer for radio manufacturers.  They already
distribute schematics, at least with the service manuals.  But I doubt
they'd want to release the code for the other modules in the radio.  It
would also prevent smaller outfits from making proprietary extensions
through additional hardware - like an external processor that adds a new
protocol stack, for example.

Number one wouldn't be a big deal for most, but it'd help the community.  It
could be given a much bigger bite by requiring the release of any CAM files
or engineering drawings necessary to reproduce the device.  Schematics are
one thing, but CAM files are another - you rarely see those distributed for
any kind of commercial products.  You can send those files off to a PCB
manufacturer and get boards made.  That's a big plus for hobbyists, not good
for manufacturers.

Now my problem is in implementing this setup.  I don't think I can use the
GPL like MYSQL AB has - the restrictions in the GPL itself are what provide
them with their proprietary licensing revenue.  But those restrictions
aren't enough in this case.  If the GPL doesn't allow additional
restrictions, then I'm going to need to start somewhere else.

I keep thinking there's got to be an existing license I could use, but now
that I think about it, dual licensing is a fairly new thing even in the pure
software world - and the hardware world moves a lot slower.  Could be there
isn't anything yet.


-----Original Message-----
From: Joel West [mailto:svosrp at]
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2005 9:01 PM
To: Scott Miller
Cc: license-discuss at
Subject: RE: Licensing options for firmware


Just to add to the previous useful suggestions.

Effectively you want to fully release the code but to attach strings to it
to make it less likely that large hardware companies will use it without
paying. (In a 2003 paper, I called this approach "partly open").


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