I am planning on selling a product based on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module. It runs standard Raspbian, with several 'non-default' software packages installed using 'apt-get install', and the GUI is written in Qt 5.5.

My incomplete understanding is that I need to include a GUI screen containing the licenses of installed packages.

I have a few questions:

  1. Do I need to list licenses for everything installed in standard Raspbian as well as those extra packages I installed using 'apt-get install'? ( or is there some kind of all-encompassing 'debian' or 'raspbian' license I could use for the basic system? )
  2. Is the license sufficient or do I need links to source code as well?

The compute module was designed for people to use the Pi as a base hardware platform for industrial products, so how are people using it and successfully complying with the open source licenses for software components?

Thanks for any clarification and/or guidance on this.

  • I don't know. I'd be tempted to see what vendors such as Netgear do with their routers (which are often based on a Linux distribution).
    – joan
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 14:24
  • Any BSD licences... but that is changing soon.
    – Piotr Kula
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 9:53

1 Answer 1


Before I answer your question, I'm going to include the following disclaimer. I am not a lawyer. I have some knowledge of business law, but my expertise is limited, and solely within the scope of the United States.

First, I'd say we need to consider looking at what the Raspberry Pi foundation states for its IP (intellectual property). In 2012 they released a blog post, Starting A Business With a Raspberry Pi. They specifically state (emphasis mine):

If, like Brian, you’re making a product which requires a Raspberry Pi to run, we don’t ask you to buy special permission or licences from us to use it. All we ask is that you include the words “Powered by Raspberry Pi” somewhere on your packaging. If your business is successful, we’d be very grateful if you could consider donating a small portion of your profits to the Raspberry Pi Foundation – but that’s all, and if you choose not to do that, that’s fine too.

Secondly, we should look at Raspbian. According to its about page, Raspbian is licensed with a standard GPL License. In a similar, vein, looking at Debian would be helpful. It is afterall, what Raspbian is based off of. They have a helpful redistribution guide, and state that it can be used commercially, and even burned to a CD and sold as is. They do however, issue a warning:

Of course, all CD manufacturers must honor the licenses of the programs in Debian. For example, many of the programs are licensed under the GPL, which requires you to distribute their source code.

For most of what comes with Raspbian, this is probably a non-issue, but you should keep this in mind for any packages you plan on installing. Each piece of software you install may have a requirement, but it should be fairly easy to discover in its licensing document. Conveniently, most open source software uses a small handful of licenses, so what's true for one application under the GPL, will usually hold for others with a GPL.

In short, I would include a mention for everything you used on an about page. It's fairly normal to list your product name, contact, copyright, and then a thank you list. The list could go something like "The Raspberry Pi Foundation, QT 5.5, package etc, etc"

  • If you are commercially redristributing GPLv2 binaries , you can not just point your customers and third parties at raspberrypi.org / github / raspbian.org and call it a day. You yourself must offer/mirror the sources to customers and third parties.
    – flakeshake
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 8:58
  • The link provided here for "GPL license" points to the license for the web template used at that site, not for Raspian itself! Raspian is distributed without a license of its own, although individual components may be licensed under whatever terms the original author provided. Same for Debian. raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=114981
    – Brick
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 19:14
  • For GPLv2, you most offer/provide physical media with copies. Most GPL software (not all!) has a clause that let's you use a later version of the license if you prefer. GPLv3 allows you to distribute by network and to have a third-party provide the distribution. If the third-party stops, however, you're still on the hook so you wouldn't want to point to just anywhere. @flakeshake
    – Brick
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 19:22

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