This page hosts the active draft for the Open Source Hardware (OSHW) Statement of Principles and Definition. The statement of principles is a high-level overview of the ideals of open-source hardware. The definition is an attempt to apply those ideals to a standard by which to evaluate licenses for hardware designs.
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Open Source Hardware (OSHW) Statement of Principles 1.1
Open source hardware is hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make and sell the design or hardware based on that design. The hardware's source, the design from which it is made, is available in the preferred format for making modifications to it. Ideally, open source hardware uses readily-available components and materials, standard processes, open infrastructure, unrestricted content, and open-source design tools to maximize the ability of individuals to make and use hardware. Open source hardware gives people the freedom to control their technology while sharing knowledge and encouraging commerce through the open exchange of designs.
Open Source Hardware (OSHW) Definition 1.1
OSHW Draft Definition 1.0 is based on the Open Source Definition for Open Source Software and draft OSHW definition 0.5. The definition is derived from the Open Source Definition, which was created by Bruce Perens and the Debian developers as the Debian Free Software Guidelines. Videos and Documentation of the Opening Hardware workshop which kicked off the below definition are available here. Please join the conversation about the definition here
Open Source Hardware (OSHW) is a term for tangible artifacts -- machines, devices, or other physical things -- whose design has been released to the public in such a way that anyone can make, modify, distribute, and use those things. This definition is intended to help provide guidelines for the development and evaluation of licenses for Open Source Hardware.
It is important to note that hardware is different from software in that physical resources must always be committed for the creation of physical goods. Accordingly, persons or companies producing items ("products") under an OSHW license have an obligation not to imply that such products are manufactured, sold, warrantied, or otherwise sanctioned by the original designer and also not to make use of any trademarks owned by the original designer.
The distribution terms of Open Source Hardware must comply with the following criteria:
The hardware must be released with documentation including design files, and must allow modification and distribution of the design files. Where documentation is not furnished with the physical product, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining this documentation for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably downloading via the Internet without charge. The documentation must include design files in the preferred format for making changes, for example the native file format of a CAD program. Modification of the design must be possible and feasible with CAD programs available under an OSI-approved license. If open-source CAD programs are not available, then the design MUST be modifiable with multiple independent and readily available CAD software packages. Proprietary CAD vendor lock-in is not allowed. Deliberately obfuscated design files are not allowed. Intermediate forms analogous to compiled computer code -- such as printer-ready copper artwork from a CAD program -- are not allowed as substitutes. The license may require that the design files are provided in fully-documented, open format(s). A good test is "Would the design files, and all the required software to edit/modify/view the designs and documentation meet the Debian Free Software guidelines and social contract"
The documentation for the hardware must clearly specify what portion of the design, if not all, is being released under the license.
3. Necessary Software
If the licensed design requires software, embedded or otherwise, to operate properly and fulfill its essential functions, then the license may require that one of the following conditions are met:
a) The interfaces are sufficiently documented such that it could reasonably be considered straightforward to write open source software that allows the device to operate properly and fulfill its essential functions. For example, this may include the use of detailed signal timing diagrams or pseudocode to clearly illustrate the interface in operation.
b) The necessary software is released under an OSI-approved open source license.
4. Derived Works
The license shall allow modifications and derived works, and shall allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original work. The license shall allow for the manufacture, sale, distribution, and use of products created from the design files, the design files themselves, and derivatives therof.
5. Free redistribution
The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the project documentation. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale. The license shall not require any royalty or fee related to the sale of derived works.
The license may require derived documents, and copyright notices associated with devices, to provide attribution to the licensors when distributing design files, manufactured products, and/or derivatives thereof. The license may require that this information be accessible to the end-user using the device normally, but shall not specify a specific format of display. The license may require derived works to carry a different name or different version number from the original design.
7. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.
8. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the work (including manufactured hardware) in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it must not restrict the hardware from being used in a business, or from being used in nuclear research.
9. Distribution of License
The rights granted by the license must apply to all to whom the work is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
10. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
The rights granted by the license must not depend on the licensed work being part of a particular product. If a portion is extracted from a work and used or distributed within the terms of the license, all parties to whom that work is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted for the original work.
11. License Must Not Restrict Other Hardware or Software
The license must not place restrictions on other items that are aggregated with the licensed work but not derivative of it. For example, the license must not insist that all other hardware sold with the licensed item be open source, nor that only open source software be used external to the device.
12. License Must Be Technology-Neutral
No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology, specific part or component, material, or style of interface or use thereof.
The signatories of this Open Source Hardware definition recognize that the open source movement represents only one way of sharing information. We encourage and support all forms of openness and collaboration, whether or not they fit this definition.
Licenses and Hardware
In promoting Open Hardware, it is important not to unintentionally deceive designers regarding the extent to which their licenses actually can control their designs. Under U.S. law, and law in many other places, copyright does not apply to electronic designs. Patents do. The result is that an Open Hardware license can in general be used to restrict the plans but probably not the manufactured devices or even restatements of the same design that are not textual copies of the original. The applicable section of copyright law is 17.102(b), which says:
- In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.
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