3D Robotics
I was part of the Open Source Hardware committee that drafted this definition and code of conduct. What do you think? (And come to the Open Hardware Summit in NYC on September 23rd. I'll be there!)


Open Source Hardware (OSHW) is a term for tangible artifacts -- machines, devices, or other physical things -- whose design has been released to the public in such a way that anyone can make, modify,
distribute, and use those things. This definition is intended to help
provide guidelines for the development and evaluation of licenses for
Open Source Hardware.

It is important to note that hardware is different from software in that physical resources must always be committed for the creation of physical goods. Accordingly, persons or companies producing items
("products") under an OSHW license have an obligation not to imply that
such products are manufactured, sold, warrantied, or otherwise
sanctioned by the original designer and also not to make use of any
trademarks owned by the original designer.

The distribution terms of Open Source Hardware must comply with the following criteria:

1. Documentation

The hardware must be released with documentation including design files, and must allow modification and distribution of the design files. Where documentation is not furnished with the physical product,
there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining this documentation
for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading
via the Internet without charge. The documentation must include design
files in the preferred form for which a hardware developer would modify
the design. Deliberately obfuscated design files are not allowed.
Intermediate forms analogous to compiled computer code -- such as
printer-ready copper artwork from a CAD program -- are not allowed as

2. Necessary Software

If the hardware requires software, embedded or otherwise, to operate properly and fulfill its essential functions, then the documentation requirement must also include at least one of the
following: The necessary software, released under an OSI-approved open
source license, or other sufficient documentation such that it could
reasonably be considered straightforward to write open source software
that allows the device to operate properly and fulfill its essential

3. Derived Works

The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original hardware. The license must allow for the manufacture, sale,
distribution, and use of products created from the design files or
derivatives of the design files.

4. Free redistribution

The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the project documentation as a component of an aggregate distribution containing designs from several different sources. The
license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale. The
license shall not require any royalty or fee related to the sale of
derived works.

5. Attribution

The license may require derived works to provide attribution to the original designer when distributing design files, manufactured products, and/or derivatives thereof. The license may also require
derived works to carry a different name or version number from the
original design.

6. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

7. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the hardware in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the hardware from being used in a business, or from being used
in nuclear research.

8. Distribution of License

The rights attached to the hardware must apply to all to whom the product or documentation is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.

9. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product

The rights attached to the hardware must not depend on the hardware being part of a particular larger product. If the hardware is extracted from that product and used or distributed within the terms of
the hardware license, all parties to whom the hardware is redistributed
should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction
with the original distribution.

10. License Must Not Restrict Other Hardware or Software

The license must not place restrictions on other hardware or software that may be distributed or used with the licensed hardware. For example, the license must not insist that all other hardware sold at
the same time be open source, nor that only open source software be used
in conjunction with the hardware.

11. License Must Be Technology-Neutral

No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.


The signatories of this Open Source Hardware definition recognize that the open source movement represents only one way of sharing information. We encourage and support all forms of openness and
collaboration, whether or not they fit this definition.

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  • Alex, one might point out that the technology needed to fly a Boeing 747 into, shall we just say, where it doesn't belong, was acquired right here in the good 'ol US of A, No overseas training camps required. The idea of restricting information to borders seems pointless in that light.
    I tend to think that people cannot pursue science and superstition/ignorance at the same time; that in short, Free, Open countries are attacked by ignorance, and the less ignorance the better?
  • @ Chris,
    I stand erected :)
  • 3D Robotics
    @Alex, that's hard to reconcile with a distributed, international community. Most of our technology is created online by teams around the world, mostly comprised of non-US citizens. The notion of "borders" is almost meaningless in such a virtual development process. Where the hardware is made and sold is essentially arbitrary -- it can be anywhere and tends to be wherever it's easiest to do so, as encouraged by the open source licence, which permits comercial use by anyone.
  • 3D Robotics
    XV, that was referring to an different board, as you know.
  • @Chris
    always eh?
    > Reply by Chris Anderson on November 14, 2009 at 8:59pm:
    > We don't distribute Eagle files, I'm afraid.
  • I wonder how the 'no discrimination against people/groups' will work out with ITAR restrictions. Especially here in the realm of unmanned/autonomous aircraft and autopilots. Small fast aircraft + autopilot + payload => guided missile, so we (I say this as a citizen of the USA) have restrictions about what technology we can and can't let leave our borders.
    I think really its all gonna have to be within reason. I would love all of this to be completely open source and distributable, but when push comes to shove i think the guys on top are going to decide national security before hobbyists and research.
  • 3D Robotics
    Juan, you're not looking in the right place. All the Eagle files for those products are at the bottom of the product listings, both in our store and on Sparkfun. Always have been.
  • Excellent principles Chris. How then does this apply to the hardware designed by members of this forum and sold though the DIY Store? I guess I am seeing somewhat of a disconnect here so I would very much appreciate your input to help clarify (or correct) my perception. I mean I have not yet seen any schematics or eagle files for the stuff in the shop (e.g. AP Mega etc) -
    Referring to the definition you quote:- I should be able to get the schematic (or eagle files) for the ArduPilot Mega and make some modifications then cut the PCB on my own equipment. - Maybe I have not looked in the right place....
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