A project log for DLT one - A Damn Linux Tablet!

Modular Open Source Hardware Tablet that is easy to hack and can run a standard Desktop Linux Distribution (or Android)

Prof. FartsparkleProf. Fartsparkle 09/19/2019 at 22:244 Comments

I just noticed while watching this video from Thomas Sanladerer that I haven't really talked about licensing yet and that licensing can get icky quite fast. I only talked about it being "open source hardware" but without any further details that can mean a lot of things.

First of all there are actually two projects here, there is DLT, a tablet that I'm making and then there is a yet to be named electrical and mechanical standard that I'm developing at the same time which DLT implements. This standard will enable anybody to create a compatible product or just parts for DLT.

I want the standard to be as open as possible, the only thing I will probably require is credits but that's it, other than that, do what you want with this! Licenses that I have in mind for this are either MIT or a license better suited for hardware like CC-BY-4.0 (the more likely candidate). So even closed source commercial applications are totally fine.

For the tablet I'm a bit torn. I want to hold a bit of control over what happens with it, mostly to avoid any malicious use of the hardware, intended or not intended. If someone just starts out producing this tablet without me knowing they could change pretty much anything and people buy it expecting the same product. I do not want to inhibit commercial use all together of course, I'm really only concerned about unsolicited copy cat manufacturing and the problems that come with it.

So I'm currently leaning towards a CC-BY-NC-4.0, if you modify your DLT I don't want to force you to share those changes, feel free to use it in an industrial context and develop your proprietary tech around it but I don't want you to build it yourself from scratch and sell it to others. If you do want to do that, make your own design based on the spec! Which I think is actually kind of nice because it forces other companies to start using the standard and create their own thing if their ambitions already go so far that they want to self manufacture, making the ecosystem larger, which is really all I want.

I find it very hard to choose a license in these cases because it's this very black and white, yes or no kind of deal even though there is a lot of commercial use that I want to allow (actually the majority of all possible commercial use).

The only solution that I could come up with so far is to add a notice that I will gladly award you a license that allows you to commercially use it as long as it is within these terms that you don't sell copies or direct derivatives of the product without my explicit permission.

The downside of that is that others are technically bound to my 'good will' and I don't know if that is such a good thing either.

If you know a better solution or license, please let me know :)


Tom Nardi wrote 09/20/2019 at 22:37 point

You'd certainly be within your rights to require that those looking for a commercial use license contact you directly to work out an arrangement. As the creator of the project, you have the ability to relicense the project on a case-by-case basis.

The situation gets more complex as additional contributors come onboard, but you could always use a Contributor License Agreement (CLA) that explains the possibility of a license switch in certain commercial applications.

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Prof. Fartsparkle wrote 09/20/2019 at 22:50 point

Most contributions after the base is done could probably stand on their own as modules so the licensing can change for those.

But yea more in-depth contributions could get tricky. So far I didn't assume anyone will join for the base product development.

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deʃhipu wrote 09/20/2019 at 07:44 point

You could use the permissive license for the design, and protect the name/brand with a separate trademark. This way people can freely use the design to produce (and sell) whatever, but they can't sell it under the same name as yours.

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Prof. Fartsparkle wrote 09/20/2019 at 22:47 point

A trademark is quite pricey though, maybe something for a later point.

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