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I am working on a piece of embedded software for a consumer device. For a small part of the software, we are using a third-party library that is licensed under the MIT license.

As the MIT license states

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

the question arose if we have an obligation to mention the MIT license and/or our use of the third-party library in the documentation that comes with the device.

We are not distributing the source code to anybody, but we are obviously distributing the binaries as part of the consumer device. And as the device is not capable of showing texts to the user, it is not possible to physically keep the license text with the binaries and show it on the device itself.

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    For what possible reason do you think you wouldn't have to mention the MIT license/original authors and their copyrights? – curiousdannii Oct 7 '17 at 9:29
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    @curiousdannii, Mentioning in external documentation doesn't appear to be required and keeping the license only in a binary that you can't read and that can't reproduce the license in readable form is kinda pointless. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Oct 8 '17 at 7:36
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For cases where it's not practical to display anything when the software runs, I think it's widely understood/practiced that putting an acknowledgement in the user manual is best in keeping with the spirit of the license.

Wherever you mention YOUR copyright of the software or device, also mention something like "Package XYZ (c) John Smith, MIT license see http://my.url for details" and then at that URL you can provide pointers to the OSS software and its license.

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    IMHO "widely understood/practiced" is not an argument that holds in court.... I once went to a traffic court for an illegal left turn and explained to the judge that at time, everyone else was also doing a left turn too because of a huge and messy traffic jam and only I was singled out by the cops. The case was closed immediately: the judge said that it is not because everyone else is breaking the law that I am allowed to do so. So I paid the ticket fine ;) – Philippe Ombredanne Oct 26 '17 at 10:42
  • @PhilippeOmbredanne What's your alternative suggestion? If the software does not have a display, how do you meet the obligation other than by citing the copyright and license in the documentation? I'm not advocating skirting the rules just because everybody else does; I'm saying this is the best one can do under the circumstances. – Larry Gritz Oct 26 '17 at 16:52
  • Note that this is really the same situation as producing a software library that has no UI (say, that does some computation). You don't force console output or a pop-up from a library function that isn't supposed to generate output... you meet your licensing obligations by displaying the dependency's copyright and license in the documentation and in the code. – Larry Gritz Oct 26 '17 at 16:55
  • There is not obligation in the MIT to cite the software in the doc.... that would be a BSD... See my answer below opensource.stackexchange.com/a/6144/947 ... it is kinda silly, and none would rarely if ever get after you for an MIT license, but you can and may need to include it in the device nonetheless :P – Philippe Ombredanne Oct 26 '17 at 20:50
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I think you've answered your own question...

While you don't need to disclose your source code, you'll need to mention/acknowledge the MIT software. It's simple, copy the MIT license for the library to your distribution.

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The usual way to satisfy the obligation that the license and acknowledgements be included in all copies of the software, if the software is interactive, is to display it in an "About" page or a startup message. That way the license notice is inseparable from the software. Including it in separate documentation is also seen, but may not be absolutely correct.

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    I updated the question to note that the device is not capable of showing an "About" page. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Oct 8 '17 at 7:37
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    @BartvanIngenSchenau : Maybe it is possible to include in the documentation for the product, or a manual? – mathreadler Oct 8 '17 at 8:10
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We are not distributing the source code to anybody, but we are obviously distributing the binaries as part of the consumer device. And as the device is not capable of showing texts to the user, it is not possible to physically keep the license text with the binaries and show it on the device itself.

I could assume that you do not have space so constrained that you cannot include a few extra 100 characters of text somewhere in the device.

Strictly speaking the MIT does not require to make the MIT text accessible, but only to include it. So if you want to be extra strict you could:

  1. for strict compliance you should include the copyright and license text in your device. It may not be user accessible and may be kinda silly but this would mean applying the license terms strictly.

  2. for good measure, you could add the text in the doc or related material. This is not strictly needed though as 1. would be enough to comply IMHO. Your doc itself would not be a substantial portions of the [MIT-licensed] Software you are including. A documentation inclusion requirement would be with a BSD license, not the MIT.

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