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Subject: Re: How to get them to manufacture for us: An idea and a draft
From: Björn Stenberg (
Date: 2004-03-25

Matthias Klumpp wrote:
> Some of you pointed out to get in contact with companies, that will produce
> hardware upon Rockbox specification and using Rockbox as open source SW.
> If the product (HW & SW together) is good, that company will try to make an
> own product out of it.
> I suppose they will take the open source SW, re-write it or restructure it
> and then put a own copyright on it.

No, they can't. Rockbox will _always_ be open source, since it is licensed under the GPL. No person or company can close the source.

Basically it works like this: Copyright law says nobody may distribute your work (software) without your agreement.

The GPL is such an agreement. By using it, we are saying "you may distribute our software, if you adhere to these conditions". One of the conditions is that the software and all changes to it must remain publicly available under the same license.

If a company feels these terms are unreasonable, they don't have to agree to them. But that just means they don't have permission to distribute the software, and must use another.

That's why GPL code can never be closed. The only available choice is "keep it open or don't use our code".

> Furthermore, there is a legal problem in this constelation of cooperation.
> Who is the contact person on the open-source side ?
> Who will be responsible for warranty, who manages
> information/decisions/finances and so on ?
> Who will do the distribution ?

These are not new questions. Look at Red Hat. They sell software written by other people and it works just fine.

In a nutshell: Rockbox is not responsible for anything, since we are not promising anything. The company that wishes to turn our code into profit gets all the risk, all the responsibility and, ultimately, all the money. Anyone is free to give it a shot.

> I think (long term) this has a big risc to kill the open source project
> team.

I don't. Not any more than Red Hat and SUSE has killed Linux.

> - If there aren't already: When Rockbox was able to join "softworkers" why
> shouldn't it be possible to join "hardworkers" too.
> - Target should be, having possibility to modify HW to the needs of interest
> (as you already do with SW).
> - Another target should be to have a "cheap" HW available, or at least with
> reasonable price (compared to the features included).

The difference between software and hardware is that software is just ideas while hardware is physical matter. This means hardware will always have a cost for production and distribution that software doesn't. It also means hardware is much much more difficult to patch and modify ad inifitum.

The end result is that any custom hardware we make on a hobby basis will only ever have a very small user base. And a small user base means an even smaller developer base. And that's just plain boring. :-)

I believe the free market solution will work better: Convince manufacturers there is money to be made (saved) by selling devices with Rockbox on them instead of custom proprietary software. Just like with generic computers and linux.


Page was last modified "Jan 10 2012" The Rockbox Crew