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Re: Hardware license (status)

On Wednesday 04 December 2002 06:28 pm, Rich Walker wrote:
> After interesting discussion on and off debian-legal, I'm now down to a
> choice of one hardware license for everything except the firmware which
> will be GPL'd. The hardware license is probably the OHGPL
> <http://www.opencores.org/OIPC/OHGPL.html> with clause 2 modified to
> read
> 	You may copy, modify, distribute, and/or ...
> The outstanding problem (AFAICT) is the suggestion that hardware under
> the OHGPL might not be compatible with GPL-d hardware or software.

Okay, IANAL, but I believe there's NO WAY you can make hardware that it would 
be "incompatible" to run GPL software on, no matter what license or 
restrictions it has (unless you have some kind of EULA that specifically 
binds the customer not to do it -- which, of course, you don't). The thing 
is, running software on a piece of hardware is USING the software, not 
"copying", "distributing", "modifying", or "distributing modified copies". 
The GPL specifically doesn't address USE at all.

Secondly, the GPL specifically is not affected by the licensing of the 
operating system or other basic environment issues. After all, almost all PCs 
are proprietary, non-free designs through-and-through, so as a practical 
reality, the GPL would have to allow this.  As a more extreme case, you are 
allowed to run GPL utilities on a Windows system.

Likewise, I do not think the GPL can really address the problem of combining 
implementations of GPL'd designs with your implementation. I don't believe 
the GPL can be sensibly applied to the actual hardware without changing the 
language to specifically map the concepts over (in fact, I feel that's what 
the OHGPL attempts to do). 

So, IMHO, the only possible conflict is -- "can you combine a GPL'd design 
with your design and redistribute the combined design?"  

I think you ought to just cover yourself, and say explicitly that the 
design's license may be converted to GPL at the user's discretion.  The GPL 
insists that whenever it is combined with another free license, the resulting 
product must be licensed under the GPL -- it does not acknowledge the 
possibility of converting to another license instead.  So, the only way you 
*could* combine with GPL'd designs, is to convert to GPL.  (Though pesonally, 
I think the idea of applying an unmodified GPL to a hardware design is daft 
to begin with, because its terms can't be applied to hardware without 
significant amounts of interpretation).  As with the LGPL, the OHGPL is 
clarifying an edge case, is slightly more permissive than the GPL, and ought 
to be convertable to GPL.


Terry Hancock ( hancock at anansispaceworks.com )
Anansi Spaceworks  http://www.anansispaceworks.com

"Python takes the pain out of programming ...
            ... and Zope puts it back again."

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