Simple Question about Open Source Licenses

Hi Everyone, Thank you for helping me with these Simple issues. I Have one Simple Question about Open Source Licenses, I want just to know, Can Documentations Or Articles or Even eBooks on the Web be licensed under Open Source Licenses like: Apache-2.0, CERN-OHL1.2+, CERN-OHL2, GPL3+, LGPL3+, MIT, MPL-2.0, SHL0.51+, TAPR-OHL? I am not talking about Creative Commons Licenses, I talk about just these Licenses Wich used for Open Source Hardware, but my Question is just about using them for Documentations and Articles on the WebSites.

For Example, if you looking at this Open Source Electronic Projects Hub WebSite called Hackster.io You will find that Any Project Published by Users Licensed Under one of these Licenses:

Apache License 2.0 (Apache-2.0)
CERN Open Hardware Licence version 1.2 (CERN-OHL1.2+)
CERN Open Hardware License version 2 (CERN-OHL2)
GNU General Public License, version 3 or later (GPL3+)
GNU Lesser General Public License version 3 or later (LGPL3+)
MIT license (MIT)
Mozilla Public License 2.0 (MPL-2.0)
Solderpad Hardware License version 0.51 or later (SHL0.51+)
TAPR Open Hardware License (TAPR-OHL)

For Example, look at these Project:

  1. Under GPL3+: https://www.hackster.io/CesarSound/10khz-to-225mhz-vfo-rf-generator-with-si5351-version-2-bfa619

  2. Under MIT: https://www.hackster.io/team-matlab-iot/make-your-air-safer-alerting-indoor-iot-air-quality-monitor-5eb90d

  3. Under Apache-2.0: https://www.hackster.io/naveenbskumar/voice-recognition-using-psoc6-ble-pioneer-kit-cbe0de

So is that mean the Articles or the Documentations of these Projects are Licensed under these Open Source Licenses? Or not, It’s just the Schematic, PCB, Enclosure, and the Firmware are Licensed under the Open Source Licence mentioned in the Project? So the Article or Documentation is Copyghrited?

In this WebSite Users Allowed to share Projects under Creative Commons Licenses as under Open Source Licenses, They need just to Select the License of the Project when Submitting Content.

So Can Documentations Or Articles or Even eBooks on the Web be Licensed under these Open Source Licenses? Thank you very much.

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Hi @Ayman688 and welcome to the GOSH forums! :slight_smile:

I’ve only had a look at the three projects you linked to, and it looks to me that they’ve licensed their entire projects (including documentation) under the licenses you mentioned. Full disclosure: I am not a lawyer and this post is not professional legal advice, but to my knowledge there is no legal reason why you can’t license documentation under an open source software (e.g. GNU GPLv3) or hardware (e.g. CERN OHL-W 2.0) license.

However, software and hardware licenses were not created for documentation (or other media) and are generally not appropriate outside of software/hardware. Ideally, documentation, software, and hardware should use separate licenses. For example, documentation under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0, software under GNU GPLv3+, and hardware under CERN OHL-W 2.0.

So to answer your question:

So Can Documentations Or Articles or Even eBooks on the Web be Licensed under these Open Source Licenses?

Technically YES, but there are more appropriate licenses (i.e. the Creative Commons licenses) for documentation/articles/ebooks.

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To add to @hpy’s great explanation. The issue with licencing is that for each type work that is being licenced there are specific considerations that go into the licences that make little sense to other works. This is particularly important in terms of how they define the terms they are using. For example the GPL v3 has sections defines terms such as:

  1. Source Code.

The “source code” for a work means the preferred form of the work
for making modifications to it. “Object code” means any non-source
form of a work.

A “Standard Interface” means an interface that either is an official
standard defined by a recognized standards body, or, in the case of
interfaces specified for a particular programming language, one that
is widely used among developers working in that language."

And the CERN OHL S v2 has terms such as

1.3 ‘Source’ means information such as design materials or digital code which can be applied to Make or test a Product or to prepare a Product for use, Conveyance or sale, regardless of its medium or how it is expressed. It may include Notices.

1.4 ‘Covered Source’ means Source that is explicitly made available under this Licence.

1.5 ‘Product’ means any device, component, work or physical object, whether in finished or intermediate form, arising from the use, application or processing of Covered Source.

1.6 ‘Make’ means to create or configure something, whether by manufacture, assembly, compiling, loading or applying Covered Source or another Product or otherwise.

It is very unclear, how these may apply to documentation. Or in fact, how software licences may apply to hardware. If you are not a fan of Creative Commons there are other open documentation licenses, such as the GNU project have the GNU Free Documentation License, but they have their issues.

Hopefully, everyone downstream will act within the spirit of the license, making the legal issues less important. But this cannot be guaranteed, and so it is always better to use a licence appropriate to the work.

As for the creative commons licenses, the are quite tunable to your needs CC BY-SA is copyleft and somewhat philosophically the same as GPL. CC-BY is not copyleft and is more philosophically akin to permissive licenses like the MIT license. There are also Non Commercial (NC), and No Derivatives (ND) versions of the Creative Commons licenses. However, these NC and ND licences put up barriers to free use and in my opinion should be avoided without very good reason.

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Hi @hpy and @julianstirling , Thank you for interacting with this topic, I didn’t want to answer this topic yesterday because I was waiting for an official answer from Hackster.io about my question in order to come here with something new. Thank you again for the interaction.

Well, my question to Hackster.io was as follows, and a question has been passing on my ticket to those who will be better assist me regarding this issue.

The question is: Yes, I intend to publish a New Signal Generator Project using the MAX038 integrated circuit. It is an Optimized, Multi-use, High-quality, High-frequency Project, but my Question is I want to understand the license you have, Is it when choosing one of the Open Source Licenses for my Project, that means that the Articles or the Documentation, I mean the Instructions of these Projects are Licensed under these Open Source Licenses also? Or not, So It’s mean just the Schematic, PCB, Enclosure, and the Firmware are Licensed under the Open Source Licence Selected in the Project? So the Article or Documentation is Copyghrited?
Can you just explain this to me? Thank you very much.

Thus their answer was as follows: Your project in total will be under which ever open source license you decide. The policies of each license can be found on their respective sites. If you have different policies, I would state them clearly in the project.
Bests.

For information only, the Hackster platform is not the only one that gives users the right to license all the content of their projects by choosing one of the open source licenses, but almost as many platforms that publish open source electronics projects do the same thing. Those platforms are:

https://www.hackster.io/projects

https://oshwlab.com/

These platforms use all or some of the following licenses, but without the BSD license:

Apache License 2.0 (Apache-2.0)
CERN Open Hardware Licence version 1.2 (CERN-OHL1.2+)
CERN Open Hardware License version 2 (CERN-OHL2)
GNU General Public License, version 3 or later (GPL3+)
GNU Lesser General Public License version 3 or later (LGPL3+)
MIT license (MIT)
Mozilla Public License 2.0 (MPL-2.0)
Solderpad Hardware License version 0.51 or later (SHL0.51+)
TAPR Open Hardware License (TAPR-OHL)
Plus, Creative Commons Licenses

And I have read the official: Best Practices for Open Source Hardware 1.0 - Article from Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) on this link:

And at the end of the (Instructions and Other Explanations) paragraph, they mentioned the following: (The instructions could be in a variety of formats, like a wiki, text file, Google Doc, or PDF. Remember, though, that others might want to modify your instructions as they modify your hardware design, so it’s good to provide the original editable files for your documentation, not just output formats like PDF.)

The Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) mentioned in this Article all the files and data that must be available while publishing an Open Source Project, including Instructions or Documentations, And in the (Licensing your Designs) paragraph states that ALL THESE DADA OR FILES must be licensed with:

  1. Popular copyleft licenses include:
    Creative Commons Attribution, Share-Alike (BY-SA)
    GNU General Public License (GPL)
    Hardware-Specific Licenses: TAPR OHL, CERN OHL
  2. Or Permissive licenses include:
    FreeBSD license
    MIT license
    Creative Commons Attribution (BY)
    Hardware-Specific License: Solderpad Hardware License

Please check yourselves in this َArticle (Best Practices for Open Source Hardware 1.0 - Open Source Hardware Association) in the paragraph of (Licensing your Designs) to see if I understood the topic correctly. Thank you very much.

The reason that made me search for this Topic is that we are a Group of Arabs Interested in Electronics and Open Source Hardware Projects, where we try to enrich our Poor Arabic Content in this area by developing some existing Projects on the Internet and Improving them as much as possible, and thus Translating this Content Written in English into the Arabic Language. We are in the process of launching a WebSite that speaks in Arabic and French also about Electronics and Open Source Hardware.

So do you think that by translating the content of these Electronic Projects into Arabic and French, which Fully Licensed with the Open Source Licenses that I mentioned above, and publishing this Translated Content with the same Original License, We have not violated the Copyright Law and Infringed the Rights of Authors? What do you think?
Thank you so much.

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Disclaimer am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice :sweat_smile:

I think a lot of what we said above was from a perspective of licensing a new project. The reason you want to pick the correct license is so that you get the correct protections if someone does something you don’t want them to. For building upon an existing project it is best to stick with the current license. Most people who make projects open do it because they want people to build on it and use, translations are an incredibly good contribution.

If you stick to the original license and attribute the original project clearly then everything should be fine. It is often good practice to put any attributions clearly upfront with a link so no one gets the idea that you are trying to take credit for their work. You are not required to do this, but it builds trust.

One other piece of advice is it is nice to contact the original content creators. You don’t have to, but most people love knowing that their work is being used. This also allows you to confirm that the original content creator is happy with your licensing plans for the translation. If you have this assurance in writing then there is less to worry about about how different people interpret different licenses.

Good luck, with this project. Let us know how it goes.

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