GNU License for Hardware

Richard Stallman rms at
Fri Oct 15 11:02:08 UTC 1999

The GNU GPL does not make any legal requirements about what name you
can call your system if you include a GNU program in it.  I think it
would be wrong to try to impose such a requirement by legal force.

Besides which, individual GNU programs have often been included in
other systems, such as GCC in NeXTstep and DGUX.  Those systems are
mostly different from the GNU system, and it would only be misleading
to call them "GNU" just because they contain GCC.  So it is clear that
the GPL should not impose any requirement about the name of a system,
on account of its containing a GPL-covered program.  And it does not.

Therefore, people have a legal right to take the whole GNU system,
replace one component such as the kernel (or even make no change at
all), and call it some other name which does not include "GNU".  The
FSF and other copyright holders of GNU programs cannot sue you for
doing this.

But while that conduct is legal, that does not make it right and good.
Part of the respect that people normally give to the developers of a
software package is using the name they gave it.  If you make a
variant of the GNU system, you don't legally have to call it "GNU",
but it is rather unfriendly if you don't.

Since the BSD advertising requirement has been mentioned, I should
point out that it too makes no legal requirement about what name you
can call your system if you include some BSD software.  As regards
this particular issue, the old BSD license is no different from the

(I've called the BSD advertising requirement "obnoxious", but I don't
call it evil.  I have asked people to avoid it because of practical
problems it causes.  See

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