Advertising and selling routers with OpenWrt/LEDE installed

A couple of recent threads have raised some questions for me.

If someone uses OpenWrt/LEDE firmware to both advertise and sell routers commercially, what is that seller's obligation to OpenWrt/LEDE?

Well, there's some trademark requirements and there's some GPL requirements I can't think of any others legally off the top of my head.


Nothing. The only obligation is they don't make it sounds like it is an official OpenWrt project. They basically would have to say, "OpenWrt pre-installed" or similar and make sure that the source code is available to download publicly.

Sorry, but as @dlakelan pointed out, they also have the obligation to follow the requirements from the GPL license: merely to provide the source code for the software installed in the device.

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Now re-read my comment.

The one that starts with "Nothing", then says "The only obligation is", and just at the end mentions the source code? Yes, I probably misread that message, twice :wink:

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an "unofficial" but important thing would be to upstream their device support into OpenWrt itself, so that the device becomes officially supported too.

Many device makers don't do this, effectively killing off some of the most important features of OpenWrt (i.e. security updates, new features/packages, not reliant on a single manufacturer).

Some even are on the fine line between providing information and advertising right on the OpenWRT Wiki

So...I started thinking...most routers I've encountered...include a disk from the factory. Most of those disks, at minimum, include a copy of the license and a permanent link to their open source homepage. Does that meet the requirements?

After all, the purchase is a router normally used to connect to the Internet.

I think a printout with a link to: would work. Along with any factory disks, if you have them. I've also seen similar paper printouts from factories. Thoughts?

My understanding is you can't link to third party, you have to provide the exact software you used to build your image, and you have to commit to providing it yourself. Linking to a third party... That third party could disappear at any time for example.


The GPLv2 License (or other applicable license) is the "source of truth" on this. Of course, it is open to interpretation, as several high-profile court cases have shown. What RMS or Linus say are "interesting", but final say will be with the courts.

  1. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

    a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)

I am not a lawyer, but as I read that, a commercial product cannot use 3(c) to satisfy the license requirement.

Right, and a piece of paper that links to a third party like openwrt project doesn't qualify under 3b either. So either you'd need to include a CD/USB key or similar with the source code on it, or you need to point to a website under your own control which continues to exist for at least 3 years after the most recent time you distributed the software or at least a piece of paper with your contact information offering to ship someone a CD at cost or the like.

Or, perhaps, even a little piece of paper or silkscreen on the PC board that says "Call +11 22 3333 4444 for information on how to obtain the source code covered by GPLv2"

pretty sure it couldn't be inside the case silkscreened on the board, would have to be external sticker or something, but yes something like that could work.

Anyone care to ponder what "machine-readable source code" means? Don't they mean human readable? I'm no lawyer, but that seems like an open invitation for legal argument - which is why there is no such thing as a poor lawyer.

Is technology outpacing the GPL? I would argue nowadays providing a hyperlink to the open source code's repositry is performance of section 3. Thinks, maybe commercial vendors should now have to bind their use of other people's open source code by activating some kind of smart contract/license on a repositry blockchain?

Code that can be transformed to machine-executable.

I’m not sure where this is going or suppose to go? Does Lede/OpenWRT want anyone advertising or selling hardware with Lede/OpenWRT on it to stop? Is it about money, e.g. pay for a sort of license? Or do we actually like the fact that hardware manufacturers are putting Lede/OpenWRT directly onto their product so this project will get more and more acknowledgment and where possible even better quality as a product?

If the last case, do we really care about legal stuff?

Without getting into the whole GPL vs. other "open source" license discussion, the current concept seems to be that if your source is open, you have more people examining it for defects, resolving defects, and proposing enhancements than you would with a closed-source product. The more awareness there is of a specific code line, the more likely you are to have others examining it and contributing to it, the better your offering becomes with time. Requiring a clear indication the origin of the code increases awareness.

<flame on> which is one of the reasons the wildly outdated, amateurish OpenWRT website needs a facelift <flame off>

once all the great work on getting the content straightened out is completed.

Don't think paying for special licences work well, but donations might be the right way
Also commercial products should follow the trademark policy

I’m all for donations to this project. I know there were talks about it, but I didn’t see anywhere official on the website where/how to donate. I don’t know the statistic on the user base on this forum, but let’s say that everyone donates 1 USD per year (or the equivalent of half a beer in your county in a normal bar) that should get the project a long way I think.

Everyone using the source on their hardware they are selling donates like 0.50 USD per unit sold. It will not break the bank for anyone and this project should have some nice funding. Hardware sellers could even advertise their product for a small fee on the home page of the project...

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