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I'm planning to release a hardware device with proprietary firmware source code, using some MIT, BSD, Public Domain libraries. I have a question about a clause like this:

Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.

How to reproduce the copyright notice when shipping a hardware device? Must I have a sheet of paper with the information included in the package? (I'd prefer to stick to digital documentation)

Can the copyright notice information be made available on a special section of the products' website?

Are there any other acceptable options for reproducing the copyright notices?

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Can the copyright notice information be made available on a special section of the products' website?

I don't think this is an acceptable way to give copyright notices. In general, a customer should be able to obtain these notices from the same spot they received the hardware. So if the customer can go to a physical retail store and purchase your hardware, the customer should also be able to receive the notices from that same retail store. If your product was a software only product that could be downloaded from the internet, then it would be acceptable to present copyright notices on your website. However, it doesn't sound like your scenario falls into this category.

Are there any other acceptable options for reproducing the copyright notices?

As others have alluded to, printing the notices on paper or including notices on a CDROM, DVD, USB, etc. and shipping these notices with the hardware are generally accepted practices. If your hardware has a user interface such as a screen/display, then you may choose to present the copyright notices in the user interface.

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If you're shipping them hardware anyway, why wouldn't you simply print the copyright notices and include them in the package? If this was software then you could require the buyer to digitally acknowledge reading and accepting the notice before they could download, but in this instance you're shipping a physical product.

If you put the copyright notice on your site somewhere and expect them to go read it, you're in for a surprise, because it won't happen. You need to have assurance that every customer receives the copyright notice information (whether they read it or not is immaterial; your responsibility is only to ensure they receive it), and the only way to do that in the instant case is to send printed notice with the product.

  • Some products seem to have texts in small letters saying 'you must accept license terms at http://...' - is this legal? They don't seem to have them printed, but it could be included in USB / CDROM that comes with the products. – Giedrius Nov 4 '16 at 0:30
  • The problem is that you have no consistent way to establish that every customer received the notice (regardless of whether they read it or not) by making it optional for them to go online and read them. Heck, how many people buy and use products without even reading the instructions first? (chuckle) – Daniel Anderson Nov 4 '16 at 2:00

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