I see that the OHL has "open" in its name but it is not to be found in the open-source initiative's list.

  1. Did they not apply?
  2. Did they apply but do not match the open source definition?
  3. Why?

I found that the CERNOHL is also not listed.

  • 3
    While I don't know if TAPR applied for inclusion on OSI, my guess is that falls out of OSI's stated purpose - To promote and protect open source software, projects and communities. While they could expand their focus, they are currently only interested in software projects and not hardware, so if TAPR etc. had requested inclusion this could be a reason for not being added.
    – sambler
    Nov 16, 2018 at 8:06
  • Actually while this agreement is about logo trademarks, it could indicate that OSHWA and OSI also agreed to concentrate on their separate areas.
    – sambler
    Nov 16, 2018 at 8:22
  • I'm ok with everyone focusing on what they're good at, but failing to realize how much hardware and software need each other and having compatible licensing would be better for everybody seems very short-sighted.
    – chicks
    Nov 20, 2018 at 13:11

1 Answer 1


The OSI only approves software licenses. The goal of the approval process is to determine whether the license provides software freedom and satisfies the Open Source Definition, which itself is a software-centric document.

The OSI does not review licenses with other subject matter, e.g. creative works, open data, or open hardware. While related, that is simply out of scope.

Especially with open hardware, there are also pretty fundamental reservations whether such licenses are enforceable. E.g. circuit schematics or 3D designs are not generally considered to be creative works that enjoy copyright protection. On which legal basis could a license then forbid use of the licensed material, or attach conditions? Other kinds of IP like patents or design patents come to mind, but they require prior registration and are highly jurisdiction-specific.

That effectively only leaves:

  • open hardware licenses that focus on definitely copyrightable aspects of the work, e.g. documentation but not the hardware itself
  • open hardware licenses that are based on contract law, but contract law differs internationally (especially common law vs civil law jurisdictions)

You note that hardware and software can sometimes be intertwined. The GPLv3 does have some provisions that apply when software is embedded into a physical “user product” (the anti-Tivoization clause).

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