Version 1.1 of the definition has been released. Please help updating it, contribute translations, and help us with the design of logos and buttons to identify free cultural works and licenses!

OSHW draft

From Definition of Free Cultural Works
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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.

The widely endorsed definition draft 0.3 is on this page; older drafts are also available.

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 something you can make for yourself, modify the design of, make modified versions of, and distribute for others to use. To do this, you need access to the hardware's source (the digital files from which it's made) in the preferred format for modifying it: for example, CAD files for circuit boards or mechanical parts and source code for supporting software. You also need access to the infrastructure and content that the device relies on. You need to be able to get the components used in the hardware and to use, distribute, or sell the hardware once you've made it. These things together provide individuals with the freedom to control their products and adapt them to their needs.

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:

1. Documentation

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).

2. Scope

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, provided that the license does not require the use of these non-open components.

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 be 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 or derivatives of the design files.

5. Free redistribution

The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the project documentation as a component of an aggregate distribution containing designs from several different sources. 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.

6. Attribution

The license may require derived works to provide attribution to the original designer when distributing design files, manufactured products, and/or derivatives thereof. 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.


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