If you have a programmable hardware device that incorporates hardware components (LEDs, switches, ADCs, DACs, batteries etc.) but is designed using Verilog or VHDL for the central FPGA design does the resulting work count as hardware or software regarding copyright and open source licenses?

How would one apply an open source license to such a project as it is both hardware and software and since some FPGAs even come with an ARM CPU built onto the development board meaning you also have code written in C or C++ (or some other language) which muddies the water even more.

1 Answer 1


Most modern hardware designs are a combination of both hardware and software and like anything we create, both the hardware and software components can be covered by copyright.

According to wikipedia :-

HDL modules, when distributed, are called semiconductor intellectual property cores, also known as IP cores.

There have been several licenses designed specifically to handle open hardware designs, such as TAPR, which resembles the GPL and Solderpad which is comparable to the Apache license.

  • Ah, thank you very much for the answer. Those licenses look interesting.
    – Cromulent
    Jul 5, 2018 at 11:16

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