- Is it legal to freely manufacture, distribute and modify Raspberry Pi?
- Does Raspberry Pi have a license?
- Are the hardware documentations and specs available to the public?
- Are there any restrictions on the usage?
Keep in mind that just because the Raspberry Pi runs Linux does not assume any F/OSS requirements on the RPi hardware just as your desktop running Linux likely does not have F/OSS hardware. That said the Raspberry Pi Foundation has talked about opening up the platform in the future. So far schematics for the Raspberry Pi and an image from the Pi's gerber file has been released.
The Broadcom ARM chip is decidedly closed source and many of the driver binaries are at the moment closed source as well. Go to the Raspberry Pi FAQ page then search for hardware documentation to get an idea of how much influence Broadcom has on the freeness of the Pi's hardware.
If you buy a Raspberry Pi you own it and you can do with it whatever you would with any other product you own, but as of right now when you purchase a Raspberry Pi there are no licenses included.
Most importantly is the the Raspberry PI is a registered UK charity. IN financial terms it means all profit goes back to it self and should always strive to help areas that lack the specific role. In this case - technology.
So inherently it could be called upon that your intentions should also strive to help the charity based on revenue generated by their product. In law there is no citable definition for this that I know of. But a situation where a corporation using this product and its image(which is trademarked and marketed by Raspberry Pi) to generate extremely massive income.. I could foresee the situation to be in breech of some sort of trading standards defined within the EU regulations.
Raspberry Pi Foundation does not seem to refer to any licenses(as of this post) but it is clear that they do NOT provide schematics that will help easily reproduce the product.
If you make your board and label it Raspberry Pi or similar you are breaching trademarks.
The main purpose of RPI is for people to buy the product which generates revenue for the charity, so that they can help poor areas develop technical skills and, enable them to use modern technology in environments that do not poses funds to purchase such technology and most importantly allow these areas to connect to the internet using a cheap device!
If you officially buy the Raspberry Pi you can use it where you please and this is openly disclosed in many forum posts and blog entries on the official site. It is for the people to use.
I would have thought if you intend to use RPi in a commercial environment or to generate revenue you need to talk to your lawyers and establish a proper lawful outline and let the charity know of your intents. But, if you cant afford commercial lawyers- then you can afford to make your proprietary PCB that suits your needs.
Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.
As I recall, Eben or Liz said they wouldn't mind releasing the board layout, but there's no point since you can't buy the CPU from Broadcom.
However it's not clear what they mean by "releasing". Does it mean you can read the specs? copy the specs? copy the RPi?
I frequently have PCBs manufactured in China and replicating the complete Gerbers is easy with software which my suppliers have. They even use X-rays to copy multi-layer boards. And since the R Pi schematic is available, it becomes that more easier.
But given the pricing, it is hardly a commercial venture.
Additionally, given the quantities R Pi is purchasing, chip manufacturers can do all number of things to make life hard for R Pi CPU plagiarisers.
Add-on and Prototyping Boards
That said, I have made various add-on PCBs. One series is the size format of the Raspberry Pi and can be stacked and another series is based upon Veroboard accessories.
To my mind, the R Pi format is a real pain for embedding with all of it's projections overhanging the PCB profile. I have a PCB carrier board that holds the R Pi and has various functions, etc on it to 'man up' the R Pi such as real time clock, etc. Another pain is the absence of mounting holes! Plastic boxes don't cut it guys.
I have adopted the 3U PTH Microboard PCB format (100X160mm) and have various boards with different hole / pad layouts.
Using this format allows developers to us Vero rack assemblies, etc.
BTW, Vero's board prices are just this side of crazy! An R Pi format board with 400 holes in it single sided; bare copper tracks (for prototyping) in quantities of 10 cost USD$1.20 overnight delivery.
A 100X160mm Euro board with about 500 holes cost around USD$3 (same spec - for prototyping). I found out the actually price by the PCB material since holes are drilled with CNC they could care less how many there are! Vero charges 23 pounds and an equivalent board here is USD$7!
These are my costs F.O.B. factory door-Ho Chi Minh City.
R Pi PCB Dimensional Drawings
Given that R Pi are banging boards out, I cannot understand why there aren't official mechanical drawings based upon the PCB drawings stipulating the official dimensions and the precise locations of the two (now) pinned connectors. The manufactured tolerances I have read of are excessive. Unless there is an R Pi page I have overlooked.