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Saturday 7 April 2012

Licensing 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

Monday 1 December 2008

YASEP is published under the AGPL

Recently, I have finally chosen the licence for the YASEP project : it's the Affero GPL as published by the Free Software Foundation.

It is practically the same as the GNU GPL but with one interesting twist : You have to provide all the (derived) source code if you use it on a server.

For the YASEP project, it's not a problem because all the "intelligence" is provided by client-side JavaScript code, and the rest is static or dynamic HTML (not server-generated pages). However, using the AGPL is a clear sign that YASEP is not just a bunch of RTL files packed with documentation pages. It is a living, dynamic, organic set of files that interact with each others...

Also, I would like that eventual contributors keep the structure of the files and directories, so the whole archive remains available to anyone visiting the sites. YASEP directly provides the link to the current archive on the main page, and I believe that this is a good thing that others will do in the future.

Concerning the VHDL source code : since the only difference between AGPL and GPL is the server clause, well, I distribute the RTL files with AGPL too. One licence to rule them all...