This page hosts the current proposed Open Source Hardware (OSHW) Draft 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.
If you would like to propose changes to the statement of principles or definition by editing this page, please do so with extreme care and consideration; this draft definition has been crafted with the input of many individuals with diverse backgrounds and points of view. (And, please edit while signed in, not anonymously.)
Open Source Hardware (OSHW) Statement of Principles (Draft)
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 (Draft Version 0.4)
OSHW Draft Definition 0.4 is based on the Open Source Definition for Open Source Software and draft OSHW definition 0.3. 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. 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).
The documentation for the hardware must clearly specify what portion of the design, if not all, is being released under the license. The license may restrict the bill of materials to components which are generic, open-source, or otherwise non-proprietary. Alternatively, the design may incorporate the use of non-open components, for example if a manufacturer releases the design for a development board that incorporates a proprietary integrated circuit. The license may not require that any specific components, goods or services be used.
3. Necessary Software
If the hardware released under the license 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 hardware. 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 also require derived works to carry a different name or 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 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 attached to the hardware must apply to all to whom the product or documentation 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 attached to the hardware must not depend on the hardware being part of a particular larger product. If the hardware is extracted from that product and used or distributed within the terms of the hardware license, all parties to whom the hardware is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original distribution.
11. License Must Not Restrict Other Hardware or Software
The license must not place restrictions on other hardware or software that may be distributed or used with the licensed hardware. For example, the license must not insist that all other hardware sold at the same time be open source, nor that only open source software be used in conjunction with the hardware.
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.
This OSHW Draft Definition (0.4) is under active discussion and editing at the present time. Please do not endorse this definition, as it may still change. If you feel that the present version is "golden," and would like to endorse it as-is, please (1) move it to the old draft page and endorse it there and (2) increment the version number as shown on this page (from 0.4 to 0.5, for example) so that others may continue making changes under the new version number.
Please join the conversation about the definition here