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Re: Which parts do we need to open source if we use Debian on our robotics products

On Wed, 2022-09-21 at 12:15 +0800, Zhikang Pan wrote:

> This is zhikang Pan, our company wants to use Debian on our robot
> product, which will be sold. So do we need open source for the
> kernel, Robot Operating System framework, and applications on this
> robot product? We actually don't want open source core code because
> there might be commercial benefits involved.

Since you will be redistributing Debian within your robots, you will
need to comply with the licenses of all the software on your robots,
including both Debian and any other software you install on the robots.

Most open source licenses are easy to comply with, you will need to
read them to find out their individual requirements though.

Every Debian source package has a copy of the copyright/license info in
debian/copyright and installing Debian binary packages adds the info to
the filesystem at /usr/share/doc/$packagename/copyright.

One of the main aims of open source licenses is to give the owners of
devices equal access to the software running on them as the owners of
the software have. Everything the open source software authors can do,
the owners of the devices should have the access needed to do too.

If you preserve/present license info, distribute source code and allow
robot owners to modify/rebuild/reinstall the software, this will put
you in compliance with the vast majority of open source licenses.

The most common requirement is to preserve copyright/license info and
present the copyright/license info along with the product, such as
in the documentation or on the screen or on the relevant website.

Some licenses (such as the copyleft family of licenses, including the
GNU GPL) also require that you distribute the source code and allow
people to rebuild the software and reinstall it on your robots. This
applies to the Linux kernel and a lot of other parts of Debian, so it
is easier to just distribute all of the Debian source packages for the
software you use than to distribute source only for copyleft packages.

The other thing to be aware of with copyleft licenses are the
requirements around derivative works. Often derivative works must be
entirely licensed under the same license as the original work, or
entirely licensed under licenses compatible with the original license.
The boundary between a derivative work and two separate works is
usually (but not always) when the two parts are in separate processes.
As long as your proprietary code is in a separate process to any
copyleft code and only communicates with copyleft code through well
defined public interfaces, this part should not be an issue.

PS: some links related to the GNU GPL copyleft licenses:


PS: if you modify any open source packages, especially the Linux
kernel, we recommend you send your modifications back to the software
projects that you modified. You can also send those modifications back
to Debian so we can integrate them if the upstream projects are busy.
It is also recommended that your software engineers get involved in and
support Debian and the upstream projects more generally. These aren't
license requirements, but are open source best practices.




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