A product to be sold commercially is built around the Raspberry Pi. There is a proprietary hardware running its own software connected to the Pi, and a GUI application runs on the Pi itself.

What licensing conditions do I have to take care about?

1. Packaging

This blog implies that I should print "Powered by Raspberry Pi" on the packaging, but it's not clear whether it's a strict requirement or only a recommendation.

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 licenses from us to use it. All we ask is that you include the words “Powered by Raspberry Pi” somewhere on your packaging.

However, it's on a blog within the website, and is not as strictly formulated as the various lawyer-style trademarks rules.

2. Operating system

The product is planned to be shipped as described below:

  1. I download and write the Raspbian image to an SD card.
  2. I install my software on it.
  3. I uninstall everything which I don't need for my product, to make more space on the SD card and to make loading times shorter
  4. I ship clones of that SD card with my product.

As Raspbian is licensed with GPL, I will have to redistribute the source. Does this mean that I have to download the corresponding source from here, and either put it on the SD card, or store it myself in case someone requests it from me and the Raspbian repository is somehow off-line? Is it a problem that as I uninstalled several things from it, the source does not correspond to the binary I shipped?

If, instead of step 3, I modify the source or the makefiles to only build the necessary components, I will have to supply the source as well, especially if I modified it, and the makefiles as well, with all the help (what compiler I used with what settings) someone needs to do it by themselves?

3. Additional packages

The Raspbian images contain several non-free packages, like Java SE, Mathematica, and Wolfram. Do I have to remove all traces of them from my deployment, even if my software doesn't use any of them at all?

This question is not about

  • how available is the Raspberry Pi and what technical related disadvantages does it have in a commercial product.
  • how to protect the software from being copied or reverse-engineered.

These questions are already answered elsewhere, some of them being severely out of date.

  • TBH, if you don't want to take the Foundations word (on their blog) for it, you will have to contact them directly and iron out an agreement - lawyer-style (wrt bullet 1).
    – Ghanima
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 10:46
  • There is no requirement to say powered by Raspberry or make a donation to the Raspberry Pi foundation. You have paid for the hardware, you can do with it as you please. The software is different, you need to comply with the software License terms, I don't know the best way of doing that.
    – joan
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 11:04
  • 2
    The Raspberry Pi Visual Identity Guidelines state: 'If your product contains a Raspberry Pi, you may choose to display the "Powered by Raspberry Pi" mark on your product...'. That appears to be a voluntary action. As to the rest of your question, this is not the best place to seek legal advice. Should something bad happen down the line, 'Someone in a forum told me...' is not going to be a helpful defence.
    – goobering
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 12:23
  • If you're planning on commercialising a product and have any fuzziness on its legality whatsoever, then it's time to talk to a lawyer or similarly qualified expert.
    – goobering
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 12:23
  • The only pi-specific part of this question is the first one. The other bits will be simpler to research independently.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 14:39

2 Answers 2


If you are engaging in commercial redistribution of GPLv2-licensed binaries , you must offer/mirror the sources to your customers and third parties yourself. You cannot point everyone at raspbian.org / raspberrypi.org . This is because the GPLv2 was written before the WWW was established as fast and common distribution mechanism.

Furthermore , as you correctly stated , you have to include " [..] the scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable [..] " as long they were part of a GPLv2-licensed project.

The easiest way to satisfy those requirements is to use apt-get source on all installed packages , so they reside on the same medium as the binaries.


P.S. I am not a lawyer , i am not your lawyer. This answer does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal professional if in doubt. Laws and applicability vary by jurisdiction. The opinions of the Free Software Foundation expressed herein are solely their own.

  1. Packaging

Regarding the "Powered by Raspberry Pi" label, I'd say you should include it, since you're allowed to and it would be probably good for advertisement. If you want to omit this label for some reasons, I suggest you ask about this when you contact Raspberry Pi foundation, just to make sure.

  1. Operating system

Note that GPL doesn't require you to systematically distribute the sources along with your product. You can make a written offer to provide the source code to anyone who asks. This can be a solution if you want to save space on the SD card, as you won't be including any source code on it. The source code can be distributed online, or you can offer to send it on request on a physical media (you are allowed to charge a fee for this, but this fee cannot exceed the price of your product).

There are high chances that nobody will ever ask you to provide the source code for Debian packages, since they can easily get it themselves. However, as @flakeshake states in his answer, in case of a commercial product you are required to be able to provide the source code which was used to build the binaries, so make sure you keep the that code somewhere. If you lose it, you may be legally forbidden to distribute your product.

  1. Additional packages

You should remove non-free packages if your product doesn't use them. Leaving them on the SD card may violate their license, at least in Wolfram / Mathematica case:

Prohibited Uses

All uses of the Software and other elements of the Product not specifically stated in the Permitted Uses and Installations section of this Agreement are prohibited, including, without limitation:

a) directly or indirectly using the Product for commercial purposes

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