I plan to open source a full-stack project (hardware schematics + firmware). I want to find a way of open sourcing it with a copyleft-style license that allows anyone to use, modify, and redistribute both the hardware and software and all distributions inherit the license, but explicitly disallow people from charging (money or otherwise) for the result of doing so.

Basically, is there a copyleft license that enforces both "free as in freedom" (libre) and "free as in free beer" (gratis)?

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    Forbidding commercial use would violate OSD#6, so the resulting license wouldn't be open source. Licensing open hardware is also a bit more complicated since most hardware cannot be copyrighted – and your schematics may or may not be copyrightable. – amon Feb 1 '20 at 13:12
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    Please read the open-source definition, and the Free-software definition. – ctrl-alt-delor Feb 1 '20 at 20:50
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    How is being forbidden to install a piece of software for money, or to pay for software to be installed, an increase in end-user freedom (libre)? – MadHatter Feb 2 '20 at 7:22
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the requested characteristics make any such license non-free/non-open source. – curiousdannii Feb 2 '20 at 12:40

No such license exists, or can exist. One of the basic principles of copyleft is that the recipient of the licensed content is permitted to use it as they see fit, so long as they extend that right to anyone they in turn provide the content to.

There's also a more practical reason why "no commercial use" licenses in general are rare: it turns out that "charging money" is a very difficult concept to nail down.


A license cannot put restrictions on the mere use of something. So this is not possible.

If you don't understand why this is so, imagine if you buy a book and it has a "license page" that says, "You may not read this book on Sundays". You can simply not agree to the license and then you can read the book on Sundays because it's your book.

See 17 USC 106 for the list of things you can restrict in a copyright/copyleft license. You'll notice that ordinary use is not on that list because it's a right of ownership under US law.


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