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27 March 2012, 09:55

A new licence for open source hardware

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IP lawyer Andrew Katz has announced a new open source hardware licence. The Solderpad Hardware License is based on and compatible with the Apache 2.0 License and has the same goals, but is aimed specifically at hardware.

According to Katz, there are currently only two licences designed for open source hardware – the CERN Open Hardware Licence and the TAPR Open Hardware License – and both are copyleft licences. He points out that hardware and software are different, however, and that hardware copyleft is not very feasible on the grounds "that the cost differential between adopting the GPL and designing around it (for software) is vastly greater than the cost differential in circumventing a copyleft hardware licence." This is due to the fact that it is generally a lot easier to circumvent hardware copyleft licences since there is no copyright on hardware implementations in most jurisdictions.

Katz's takeaway from this was to not try to enforce copyleft but to create a permissive hardware licence instead. To that end, he modified the Apache 2.0 License, which is already well known and respected, to better apply to hardware.

The new licence is currently being certified by several organisations and Katz is soliciting comments on it. Since it was announced, a revision to the original licence has already been published.


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