I am developing a embedded system (computer + os + programs) to sell it to a company. I am confused about the licensing and the softwares I wanted to use to develop the system.So I want to know if I can use these programs free of charge and without distributing the source code for commercial use.I wanted to use:

  • A linux distro o custom linux build:I thought Arch Linux
  • A Web Server + PHP + MySQL: I thought XAMMP,they says that is free of charge for commercial use but I don't know if the components are also.
  • A QT backend and frontend,but I don't know if I can use the LGPL version for commercial use or I need to use the Commercial License.
  • jQuery (I saw that if I maintain the notice,I can use it)

Thanks for your response

  • 1
    This is moving into a legal area. While none of us here are lawyers, we can tell you about our experiences as they relate to legal issues. You should seek the council of a lawyer for all matters legal. Apr 24, 2014 at 20:55
  • Since you are selling this make sure you charge enough to cover the cost of consulting a lawyer that is familiar with Open Source licensing and then consult that lawyer.
    – Craig
    Apr 29, 2014 at 15:01
  • Are you looking for a strategy where you can keep your source code secret and not give it to your client, or do you actually want to know what you are supposed to do?
    – david.pfx
    Jun 2, 2014 at 15:22

1 Answer 1


I can't give legal advice, but I can point you at some starting points:

First, if you are shipping GPL software such as Linux, you cannot escape the obligation to offer source. For a detailed breakdown of your obligations, read A Practical Guide to GPL Compliance. Many companies ship embedded Linux systems while complying with these guidelines.

One important point is that to comply with these licenses you need to know what packages you ship, and be prepared in advance for a source code request. There is no substitute for building a list of all software you plan to distribute, including packages incidentally installed as part of the Linux distribution, and reading each license.

For most of the open-source licenses, commercial use is not a relevant distinction. Item 6 of the Open Source Definition is that an open source license should not discriminate based on field of endeavor. Most open source licenses follow this rule (except for JSON, assuming that evil is a field of endeavor).

The LGPL packages have conflicting interpretations for embedded systems. Under the Webkit interpretation it is sufficient to offer source code, but under the Mono/QT interpretation it is also necessary to provide the end-user with the ability to rebuild the package and install the new version on to the embedded system. Obviously each side has a strong commercial reason for its opinion.

  • I am only using the binary form of the software that I mention and I am reading the licenses but I am a bit confused.Exactly,the system is an x86 computer without an operating system,wich I am developing and have this problem
    – Cako
    Apr 25, 2014 at 14:12
  • That's pretty well the textbook case for the SFLC guidance. Even if you didn't build from source yourself, it remains your responsibility to provide source to your customers if demanded: softwarefreedom.org/resources/2008/…
    – Adrian Cox
    Apr 25, 2014 at 15:01
  • So if I want to use Linux as kernel,do I need to provide the source of linux or the source of my program?
    – Cako
    Apr 25, 2014 at 15:03
  • Generally, you need to provide the source of the kernel and all the other GPL and LGPL components (C library, shell, etc.). You do not normally have to provide the source of your own program, unless you linked to GPL components. Read the licenses for libraries with the greatest care.
    – Adrian Cox
    Apr 25, 2014 at 15:06
  • And waht about freebsd,that it is used in Sony PS4,can I use it without releasing the source,I say in binary form??
    – Cako
    Apr 25, 2014 at 15:09

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