Suppose I decided to create a product that used the Pi 4B as it's main processing unit. Then I made a business out of that product and had a million-dollar-company. Would the Raspberry Pi foundation sue me? Is it legal to use these computers in my own product that I'm selling? I know it's a bit more complicated than that. Suppose I was using (Linux based) Raspbian Buster, and I wrote my code in node js. No modules, APIs, anything but node. Then I used my own hardware, attached it to that, and there was my product. Would it be legal to sell? I'm no expert at law, so I'm asking this question it here. Thanks in advance!
Is it legal to use these computers in my own product that I'm selling?
That is something you need to ascertain from the ToU of Raspberry. Generally speaking, though, your description is similar to a manufacturer who buys screws, bolts, diodes, transistors, and so forth that will form part of --or be embedded in-- his products. At the outset it seems unlikely that the T&C would prohibit you from commercializing your Raspberry-based product. If anything, companies such as Microsoft are likelier [than Raspberry] to require a special license for commercial purposes.
You will also need to read the terms or license of node js and Raspian Buster. If any specific clauses are unclear, you can make follow-up questions.
Yes. This is a frequently asked question on the foundation's homepage, and answered without ambiguity (source):
Can I use a Raspberry Pi in a commercial product?
This is a very common question, and the answer is yes! Once you have bought a Raspberry Pi, it's yours to do with as you wish.
You would be in good company too, as in fact the Raspberry Pi is regularly used and sold for commercial applications third parties.
Note that this the default consequence of a contract of sale in all jurisdiction I know of (but I am not a lawyer): The seller does not retain property rights in the particular item, and by the mere selling of the item implies there are no other rights that might prevent the buyer from using it as they wish.
Apart from the particular computer now in your property, there are other legal requirements:
- "Copyleft" softweare: Large parts of the Raspbian software are licensed under "copyleft" licenses (importantly, versions of the General Public License, GPL). These licenses are meant to provide your customers with the means of reproduciing and building upon the "copylefted" software. You will need to provide your customers with the source code to those software items, the tools and documentation needed for building, and a written notice.
Your own programs need not be licensed under a "copyleft" license, provided that you don't build on (distribute "derative works" of) "copyleft" software.
Non-free software: Make sure to not include non-free software, like Mathematica or Oracle Java, which are not licensed for commercial redistribution.
Trademarks: Your use of the words "Raspberry PI" or the raspberry logo is subject to restrictions, as is usual with trademarks.
Speaking of the logos: You can request permission to use their "powered by Raspberry Pi" logo.
Market regulations: You need to abide by regulations, for example safety and electromagnetic interference. Repackaging the Pi might mean you'll need to test and recertify your product, I'm not an expert.
Video codecs: Some Raspberry Pis (up to 3) include specialised video decoding hardware. If you want to use it with the MPEG2 codec, you'll have to buy an activation key for small one-time fee per device - £2.40 for MPEG2, £1.20 for VC-1; other codecs are already activated. I don't think you'll need a license even for commercial, for-sale devices, but I am not your lawyer.
Just to be clear, nothing prevents your buyers from cloning your software. (This is not a consequence of you providing the Raspbian source code - they can just clone the contents of your SD card.) While you can retain copyright in your own code, you'll probably have no effective means of detecting infringement. However, the physical design of the rest of your device will not be affected.
Your business model needs to account for this fact.