For Approval: Open Source Hardware License

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. roddixon at
Sat Jul 7 14:49:45 UTC 2007

Version 0.5 of the OSHL seems compatible with the OSD.  Since, as I  
understand it, the OSHL is essentially a software license covering  
chip design source code, I am not sure why "all of the pre-existing  
OSI-certified open source licenses" covering software are  
inapplicable to "open source hardware."

The OSHL does not purport to protect the chip; it protects source  
code.  And, certainly, it does not seem to matter directly in the  
license-approval process what type of programming language (i.e.,  
hardware design language) is used to produce the source code.  Hence,  
the need for a license exclusively protecting hardware design  
language source code is unclear to me.  Aside from the MIT- patent  
issue, what unique requirements are unmet by the existing open source  

(BTW, regarding the patent issue, I am curious - do you mean MIT will  
not accept patent grants or will not make patent grants?)

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M.
roddixon at

On Jul 6, 2007, at 9:19 AM, Jamey Hicks wrote:

> Thanks for all the comments on my posting.
> There are no OSI-approved licenses expressly designed for open  
> source hardware. From my re-reading of the OSI-certified open  
> source licenses, several of them could be used without change to  
> protect copyrighted source code written in hardware description  
> languages such as Verilog or VHDL: MIT, BSD, CDDL, and EPL and GPL.  
> None of these meets all the requirements for our project. CDDL and  
> EPL would fit our needs except that at least one of the  
> contributors, MIT, will not use a license with explicit patent  
> grants. The Artistic License is very close to our needs, so I am  
> proposing this Open Source Hardware license, derived from Artistic  
> License 2.0.
> Jamey Hicks
>          The "Open Source Hardware License"
>                 Version 0.5
>                Preamble
> The intent of this document is to state the conditions under which an
> open source hardware Package may be copied, giving the users of the
> package the right to use and distribute the Package in a more-or-less
> customary fashion, to include this Package or derivatives thereof in
> aggregate hardware components, plus the right to make reasonable
> modifications provided those modifications to this Package are shared
> with the community.
> This document is intended to cover source code consisting primarily of
> code written in hardware description languages such as Verilog, VHDL,
> or Bluespec. All of the pre-existing OSI-certified open source
> licenses included software terminology that is not applicable to open
> source hardware.  This document is derived from the Artistic License,
> which most closely matched the rights we would like to grant and
> restrictions we would like to enforce. We have removed language
> referring to the interpreter, scripts, and object code. We have also
> removed the language that required that standard forms of the Package
> be distributed along with modified versions.
> Definitions:
>    * "Package" refers to the collection of files distributed by the
>      Copyright Holder, and derivatives of that collection of files
>      created through textual modification.
>    * "Executable" means the "Package" in any form other than Source
>      Code. Executable forms include netlists, programming
>      files/images for FPGAs, soft or hard macros for ASICs, mask
>      images for ASICs, and programmable logic or ASICs.
>    * "Source Code" means the common form of computer code in which
>      modifications are made and associated documentation included
>      in or with such code.
>    * "Standard Version" refers to such a Package if it has not been
>      modified, or has been modified in accordance with the wishes
>      of the Copyright Holder.
>    * "Copyright Holder" is whoever is named in the copyright or
>      copyrights for the package.
>    * "You" is you, if you're thinking about copying or distributing
>      this Package.
>    * "Reasonable copying fee" is whatever you can justify on the
>      basis of media cost, duplication charges, time of people  
> involved,
>      and so on. (You will not be required to justify it to the
>      Copyright Holder, but only to the computing community at large
>      as a market that must bear the fee.)
>    * "Freely Available" means that no fee is charged for the item
>      itself, though there may be fees involved in handling the item.
>      It also means that recipients of the item may redistribute it
>      under the same conditions they received it.
> 1. You may make and give away verbatim copies of the source form of  
> the
> Standard Version of this Package without restriction, provided that  
> you
> duplicate all of the original copyright notices and associated  
> disclaimers.
> 2. You may apply bug fixes, portability fixes and other modifications
> derived from the Public Domain or from the Copyright Holder. A Package
> modified in such a way shall still be considered the Standard Version.
> 3. You may otherwise modify your copy of this Package in any way,  
> provided
> that you insert a prominent notice in each changed file stating how  
> and
> when you changed that file, and provided that you do at least ONE  
> of the
> following:
>    a) place your modifications in the Public Domain or otherwise  
> make them
>    Freely Available, such as by posting said modifications to  
> Usenet or
>    an equivalent medium, or placing the modifications on a major  
> archive
>    site such as, or by allowing the Copyright Holder to  
> include
>    your modifications in the Standard Version of the Package.
>    b) use the modified Package only within your corporation or  
> organization.
>    c) make other distribution arrangements with the Copyright Holder.
> 4. You may distribute the programs of this Package executable form,
> provided that you do at least ONE of the following:
>    a) distribute a Standard Version of the executables and library
>    files, together with instructions (in the manual page or
>    equivalent) on where to get the Standard Version.
>    b) accompany the distribution with the machine-readable source of
>    the Package with your modifications.
>    c) make other distribution arrangements with the Copyright Holder.
> 5. You may charge a reasonable copying fee for any distribution of
> this Package. You may charge any fee you choose for support of this
> Package.  You may not charge a fee for this Package itself. However,
> you may distribute this Package in aggregate with other (possibly
> commercial) Packages or executables as part of a larger (possibly
> commercial) hardware source distribution or executable provided that
> you do not advertise this Package as a product of your own.
> 6. The name of the Copyright Holder may not be used to endorse or  
> promote
> products derived from this software without specific prior written  
> permission.
> The End

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