Log#41 : Licensing freedom

A project log for YASEP News archives

A backup of the blog before the host erases it. A good opportunity to review the development, twists and turns of this ISA !

Yann Guidon / YGDESYann Guidon / YGDES 04/10/2020 at 00:130 Comments

By whygee on Saturday 7 April 2012, 01:48 - Freedom

How does one license freedom ? And what freedom is there to license ?

I recently got an email that contained this bit :

"with your current license, could your microYASEP be linked into a commercial product without releasing the product VHDL ?"

I think there is a valid point here. I chose the AGPL (a slightly modified GPL) for certain reasons, and one of my goals is to foster totally free and open source designs, a bit like Arduino does. It's somehow a mission statement and I stick to that.

I know well that a good CPU with good support is a gift, a fantastic tool not only for hobbyists but also for industries and they play by different rules, that are sometimes opposite. Choosing a different licence for the whole thing is not considered, and it's too late anyway, and I like the AGPL in the context of the YASEP project. I believe that "as is", the AGPL is not inadapted to hardware designs, as it is very close to the GPL, which also spawned the LGPL that many HDL designs use. Furthermore, I believe it is best to use only one license for the whole project, otherwise it can become confusing.

I've seen other projects use "dual licensing" but I am not sure that it would work for a hardware project. It's still a good idea so I thought about something slightly different, like a "partners program". It's still an ongoing thought and it will certainly evolve but my idea looks like this :

Commercial entities who want to integrate the YASEP core in commercial products (along with other HDL) would submit me their designs (HDL and finished product) for a confidential evaluation and certification. They will also disclose on their website all the YASEP source code that they used, in exchange of an exemption agreement and mention on the YASEP site.

I know that most companies feel more comfortable with cores from ARM or Microchip or Atmel... But I already know that there are exceptions and those excited by the YASEP are sensitive to my perspective so we'll tune the partnership details together.

So far, I don't give much thought about this "issue" because without an advanced enough design, there is no point in licensing. I don't want to waste time in endless conversations about hypothesis and what-ifs. And after all I am the author so I have the final word :-P


Licensing is still a theoretical concern at this point but my position has since been vindicated by experience.