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Licence Required for Commercial use

A description of the LRC licence model.

This is intended to be a simple license for Open Hardware development that works like a digital handshake between honourable persons (developers and users) with karmic teeth

You can generate a list of local wiki pages that link to this page. It will give an indication of projects that are published under LRC licence. Errors and omissions may exist so be careful and inspect the page contents before making choices.

Crystal Clear action run.png

Release status: concept


A new Open Hardware licence model
CAD Models
External Link


A significant problem exists in the greater Open Hardware community that directly affects the RepRap community as well.

It pertains to the lack of a practical, mostly unrestricted, licensing model for hardware ideas and designs that are disclosed to the public.

The main failing is that none of the usual Open Source Software models cover the compensation of hardware development costs in any way and in a sense victimise the developers who chooses to publish. Proportionally little has been discussed globally about Open Hardware licences as the need for production capacity has usually limited their wholesale abuse. If you want to steal a design for a mousetrap you still have to make the mousetraps to make a profit so the barrier to entry for abuse has been higher and as such less tested. With the advent of home made and low cost 3D printing machines this barrier is falling and some equitable way of maintaining a form of compensation for development work needs to be found.

Paradoxically the RepRap project suffers the most from the ease of replication because everyone involved usually has access to a 3D printer or understands their capabilities. The need to protect the value of development effort is real and will increases the growth of development in community Open Hardware projects (including the RepRap project) if the community is trained to value the effort that is put in by developers especially if they share some of their knowledge or allow individual freedoms. Training a community to only take and never give will have negative social consequences that will rival those of donor aid acceptor nations to be found in the poorest parts of the world, in the end the recipients stop respecting their own worth because they have received without compensation. Karmically, ethically and morally there needs to be some kind of compensation or energy exchange for effort or else a debt is incurred. In a better world with less scarcity the value put on effort would be closer to what effort is expended. In our world we find that even the saving of effort for another is of value to them and this should be compensated.

There has been much ongoing discussion in various fora about this problem but no resolution in sight as yet.

This page will document one such proposal. Hopefully others will round out the license if I have made some gross error in my estimation or propose a better idea. The formal text is deliberately short as it only conveys the spirit of the licensing model, the implementation is left up to human good nature and understanding of Karmic returns (you reap what you sow).

LRC 0.1

This design or idea is free for all non-commercial use and 
  available for commercial licensing where allowed. 
Fair compensation is requested by the developer from profits.  
Your word is your bond.

LRC 0.2

This design or idea is free for all non-commercial use and 
  available for commercial licensing where allowed. 
Fair compensation is requested by the developer from profits.  
Give credit whenever you can.
Your word is your bond.

LRC 1.0

This after the first round of consensus has been achieved.

Instructions for use

The following are guidelines for the use of the simple LRC licence model. They are not proscriptive nor are they static, they are intended as a best practice that will further fairness and simplicity. Use of them is to the long term benefit of everyone. They are intended to be guidelines or fair play and simple convenience and to expand on the wording in the spirit of the license. In a perfect world they should be obvious.

For the developer:

  • In the distribution indicate that the LRC licence model is used and the version number if it is important, default is the latest version
  • Perhaps add -OS if you wish to specifically mention that a more open source model is offered. (This feature may be deprecated if it does not offer specific benefits)
  • Include contact details if you want to be contacted, make it easy to contact you if you are expecting license fees
  • Indicate your default commercial terms if this is important to you, cede your fees if you so choose

For the private user:

  • On manufactured items credit the source if possible
  • When publishing derived ideas credit the source and indicate the LRC licence; indicate your choice of license model to maintain your rights

For the commercial user:

  • If preparing to manufacture a design or planning to utilise the idea, seek a licence agreement if you wish to negotiate different commercial terms
  • On manufactured items credit the source and indicate the licence model
  • Pay over fees to the developer in a fair way

Open Source (LRC-OS)

Some Open Hardware advocates believe that the Open Source Software licensing models should form the basis of Open Hardware licence models. They have been shown to have fundamental weaknesses if one wants to promote development which is a primary goal of the RepRap project.

Open Source Software is not the same animal as Open Source Hardware. The OSS licence models cannot protect physical atoms or simple ideas in any meaningful way.

Adrian Bowyer (the founder of RepRap) believed that for a self replicating machine to be able to come about it would have to evolve. He also believed that the evolution would stagnate if the designs were not open. This is really a prophetic glimpse into the future but is not yet valid at this point in time. Presently the RepRap is not an evolving organism. It is undergoing directed evolution and it lives exclusively in Symbiosis with Humans. It has not evolved from something simpler and it may take a very long time before it is no longer a symbiote. While it is still symbiotic the project has to put up with all sorts of restrictions on it's ethos and sources. It is pointless to say that the project be shut down now because the stepper motor designs are not Open Source, of the AVR processor design is copyrighted or Kapton is Patented (might have been once, just inventing an example).

As mentioned elsewhere this licence can be used in conjunction with other less restrictive licences such as the Open Source Software licences if one wants to make it obvious that the source available. Developers may chose to licence the source for commercial users or offer it on polite request. Remember reverse engineering is an option that gets one to a version of the source that could be as much as some other person offered even if they claim to be Open Source. The reason for not requiring the source to be open is simply because it places an unneeded burden on the developer for fair private use of the design or idea, it is similar in many respect to the accepted patent model where a range of ingredient mixtures or a selection of (sometimes unworkable) processes are described while keeping as much of the implementation hidden while still claiming innovation.

This licence is not intended to stifle openness, it is intended to reward development.


Open source is an option but not required beyond what is needed to use the design or idea. The supply of commented source code, referenced citations and formula derivations is a privilege to the end user and not an automatic right unless paid for. Compiled design files (sliced 3D models) or printer ready files (PS or PFD) would be quite acceptable for the non-commercial use disclosure. Reverse engineering or decompilation for any personal use would be allowed but commercial use of such decompilation would require a licence agreement as before. Most designers would usually make working source files available at least on request for free where it does not consume many man hours to prepare them for the benefit of the non-commercial users. Also we must remember that designs and ideas are not always contained in a tidy source file. Sometimes just to use it one would have to change the source or distribution file, that does not make the original idea valueless as the value is not in the source, just the convenience..

A licensing agreement, in spirit, comes into force automatically if profits are made from the use of the design or idea. Payment of 1-20% of nett profits, perhaps 5% unless otherwise mentioned would be a fair gesture for something that you use to make money. Negotiated licences can specify any compensation that is mutually agreeable. Payment of licence fees to a charity or Open Hardware related foundation/project/community (in a similar field if convenient) are acceptable if the designer is not contactable or chooses to cede the fees to the Open Hardware community.

The scope of the idea that is covered is what is disclosed much as in a patent document. If it gives you a new idea then you can publish your new or derived idea. If your new idea makes you very rich you can share some of the wealth with those who helped you come up with your idea. If you publish your idea you should indicate if it was partly made from LRC ideas to indicate that some component of it was disclosed in the expectation of receiving a share of profits. This does not require you to lock your, or other future, disclosures under the LRC licence beyond fair disclosure of the source of your inspiration. This is only relevant if you have made minor changes or improvements to the idea, if you were merely inspired you would not need to feel much indebted and a passing mention should be enough.

It is important that this license model does not seek to impose specific methods, remedies or sanctions. It seeks to encourage people to do the right thing and offer a share of profits for benefits gained.

The idea of the wording of this license is to convey the maximum amount with the minimum words and offer the most meaning to a regular person. Nitpickers do not need to be accommodated. Those planing to abuse the spirit of the agreement need not be accommodated. Those wanting to get involved in development must have their rights clearly spelt out so they can see why they should apply this licence model to their work. Those planning to use a licensed design or idea should be able to clearly see where their liabilities would be if they plan to commercialise.

Exclusions will exist but must be assumed, such as it would be pointless and immoral to place this licence on work that is (known to be) under trade secret, patent or other more restrictive licence. The reach of this licence would be universal in location and for all sentient beings. All encompassing wording is assumed where it might be required (gender, plurals, individuals/incorporated persons/Vulcans etc.) but left out of the text as the LRC should never see a court of law except as an example of best practice.

It can be used in companionship with other Open Source licence models if it does not conflict directly with them and you want to carry over some of their fame or good will. Remember that copyright based open licenses confer no protection on ideas and designs so technically they are the more open licence models compared to this. They may more formally describe a need to share changes to 'source' material or try to force their licence model to be passed onto subsequent users. If you make a 61 and a 63 sided polyhedron design and someone manufactures one. How is this object covered by any OSS licence; it cannot be as it is an expression of a design or idea and no longer the licensed software code or art. If I now change a single byte and make a 62 sided polyhedron is this a derivative work of your solid model or is this a different mathematical construct? It is clear that there is no good way to manage Hardware designs with Open Source Software licences.

For developers the giving of credit to those that provide ideas for the licensed design is the right thing to do, unless they wish to remain anonymous. Likewise users should credit the source of ideas they use so more ideas would come from the source in future and the source can be contacted for collaboration and licensing reasons.

One thing to remember with the LRC model is that the user of the design or idea has to take ownership of the responsibility for how he behaves, this way he does not misbehave simply because he knows the chance of litigation is low. There is no official way he can be sanctioned and this expectation of responsibility automatically raises the level of ethical behaviour in the community. Similarly use of the LRC model places the onus on the developer to be honest about his ownership and freedom to promote the idea and crediting and compensating those whose work he has built on. He does not hand over power to a patent examiner to verify it is new and his own idea or to a court of law to persecute others. The only way for a user to be sanctioned is through the energy of his peers, basically the community must stand by the developers and say they will not support those that do not support in turn.

One must also remember that the current lack of choices in OSH license models that need testing means that some ideas will stagnate or some developers are victimised which is the reason for this new license model.



I have thought about how best to assist the Open Hardware community with this licensing model. In an effort to make it just a bit more formal and to prevent specification drift (please discuss proposed changes on the talk page before making edits to the technical content on this page), indifference and to make people respect it more I have come up with a plan. As you can see from the info box this recursive licence model has always been licensed under it's own licence specification so is available for commercial use. As always personal use is free if you want to show people that you respect your work and want others to do the same but would still like to share in any benefits others gain from commercialisation. It is not intended to be a one size fits all license and most of my disclosures are under GPL because I am not interested in chasing micro royalties from small (or sometimes large) incremental innovations to existing techniques but still want them published before someone else patents them and to allow others to continue the development of the ideas. However if I decide to disclose far reaching ideas partly to prevent others from patenting them out from under me and sometimes in the hope that their value will be appreciated by commercial interests then I will use the LRC license. By the same token those who wish to use the LRC license and find it pays are asked to pay a tiny part of their profits for the benefits they gain. I, Kalle Pihlajasaari (KalleP) am asking for 1% of your nett profits (your gains after production costs) for the use of this license model. To be paid as and when fair. I in turn will put at least 75% of these fees towards Open Hardware project development that are not mine (mostly RepRap related I expect at this time).

Imagine just one idea that was compensated because the developer used the LRC license instead of some broken OSS license, say US$10'000'000 value with a 10% profit of $1'000'000 providing me a $10'000 fee (1%), this would gain the Open Hardware community $7500. Such windfall does not come for free though, the community has to respect all developers' and their own worth, one day they may be the developer. Furthermore related to any of my other designs and ideas that I publish under LRC I in turn will put at least 10% of my licence fees towards Open Hardware project development that are not mine (mostly RepRap related I expect at this time). So if a hypothetical idea of mine nets me $1'000'000 licence fees I would put $100'000 towards Open Hardware project development with a smile. I will document here what value I have transferred to the Open Hardware community as it happens, with project details if parties are agreeable.


The choice of acronym was to make it easy to remember. It first came out as LRCU but that does not roll quite as easily off the tongue. Also the Wikipedia LRC disambiguation page shows how popular TLA's are and this will gain LRC a bit of free search engine hits in time to come as it gains popularity. The Longitudinal Redundancy Check and the Inductor, Resistor Capacitor acronyms appeal most to me as companion TLAs. If it seems like it would make sense to have an open source version then the suffix would make it LRC-OS and be pronounced as 'Larcos' :-)