Arduino, Open-Source and Licenses


Important note :

The below treatment is in no way written by a lawyer or an expert. It is just an overview and is not intended to be complete or comprehensive. Please be very thorough when finalising licensing for your projects.

This guide is by no means an official document, merely a compilation of publicly available information, as observed by me.

The open source movement gives great power to everyone. It allows people to take advantage of existing work and share, modify, collaborate and build on top of it. Using content off the Internet is immensely useful, it helps you get started with projects rather quickly and helps you through most hitches along the way. Creating content is very very rewarding too, and not only financially. It helps you find others who are passionate about something as much as you are, who can help you along the way, and fill in where you lack.

However, with great power comes great responsibility, and this applies to the case of open source as well. It wouldn’t be fair if you used existing work without giving due credit to the creator, and you wouldn’t appreciate it either if a candy-gun you hacked up were weaponised. There are many considerations to be made when it comes to “open-sourcing” or “releasing the source”, some of which are :
– Credit for the original work
– Permission for reusing and modifying the work
– Sharing of modified work
– Permission for reusing work commercially

among others.

The above considerations are highly general, be it about sharing software code, hardware designs or artwork and other creative content. Though the considerations are generic across the type of content, the nature of the content itself makes it difficult to use the same terminology across different types of content without creating confusion. For this reason, various standards and licenses were created and shared, so that content could easily be licensed by without requiring too much knowledge of legal jargon, and at the same time educating content users and contributers about legal rights to content and implications of licenses.\

The Arduino project itself is a result of a lot of work created by thousands of users over a decade, who contributed in various ways and parts to get it to its present state.
Arduino makes it really easy for users to start prototyping their projects, and a lot of them eventually walk out of labs in real world implementations, from gardens to industries, and from store shelf products to satellites. Once that starts happening though, the considerations discussed above start becoming important. Failing to take care of them can cause you to lose control of your project, business and even make you liable for legal action and fines. It’s always wiser to spend a little time before hand in order to avoid a lot of trouble later. Below, I’ll give you a brief overview of the rights and usage of Arduino and it’s components, so you can hopefully find it easier to share your next great project safely.

No License :

Generally, if you find content on the Internet that does not state a license explicitly, it means that the copyright for the work belongs to the creator, and you do not have the rights to use or modify the work, for personal or commercial use.

Arduinoโ„ข :

The name “Arduino” is trademarked i.e. it is the symbol of an organisation and the products it produces, and it cannot be used to represent or promote any other products. Trademarks are meant to provide the trademark holders from being misrepresented and from the consequences arising thereof.


Arduino Hardware Design :

The hardware circuit designs for Arduino boards are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license, which allows for both personal and commercial derivative works, as long as they credit Arduino and release their designs under the same license. This means that anybody is free to use original as well as modified designs in their own projects, for hobby projects or products that people pay money for (without paying any royalty for it), as long as they share that work under the same license. This means that if you made a really cool project that you are planning to sell, you can go right ahead, but you need to credit Arduino for the original designs and share the designs for your product under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license as well. Also, you absolutely cannot add legal terms or use technology that restrict others from doing anything that the original license lets permits the users to do. You can read more about the license here :


Arduino IDE :

The Arduino IDE was built on top of the Processing IDE, and it respects and follows the licensing of the core components of Processing that are used. The Processing code is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL v2 or later), the creators (and owners of copyright) are Ben Fry, Casey Reas and MIT. As the GNU website states, “Using the GNU GPL will require that all the released improved versions be free software. This means you can avoid the risk of having to compete with a proprietary modified version of your own work”. Here, the word “free” means freedom and permissions, not free as in “for no money”

More importantly, talking about using the existing IDE or part of its code, the GPL license states quite clearly that you can modify the software and use it personally or within your organisation without releasing the source code for it to the general public. However, if you release a modified version to the public, you must make the modified source code available to the public under the same GPL license.

You can read in detail about the GPL license terms and implications here :
You can also read a summary of its implications here :


Arduino Firmware :

There is code written in C / C++ running on the micro-controllers on your Arduino board. This code is licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). This license is more permissive than the GPL, and one important freedom it gives is the freedom to use the code even in proprietary software released to the public, without requiring the source code to be released to the public.

Arduino Libraries :

The Arduino IDE comes bundled with a lot of different libraries, many of which you can see via the Examples in the IDE, and there are tons of other libraries out there as well. All these libraries are explicitly licensed by their creators, so it is important to check their licensing terms when using them in publicly released commercial projects.
Most of them are generally licensed under the BSD or MIT license, but this might vary. The MIT license is highly permissive, and it allows you to “use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software”, without restrictions, except that you include a clause that waives warranty and responsibility of the creators for anyone’s usage. The BSD license is very similar to the MIT license.

You can read about the BSD license here :
and the MIT license here :

User code :

You are free to license your code under the terms that best suit you, subject to the license terms of any libraries that you might be using. So, for example, if you
write code that is completely your own or if it includes a library under the MIT license, you can license the resulting project under whatever licenses you feel fit, provided you include a copy of those licenses when distributing.

Note : The above licenses and copyrights to the work are subject to fair dealing and fair use principles, and in those cases some clauses (or the entirety) of the above licenses may not apply. Copyright laws give some exclusivity rights to copyright holders, and fair use is a limitation and exception to those rights. Fair use, for example, allows for usage like reviewing, criticism, parody, research etc., which would otherwise not be permitted under copyright law without written permission of the copyright holder.

~ Ankit D


ArduDroid and Arduino Micro / Leonardo


At a recent workshop, I was teaching how to connect an Arduino to an Android device, using Bluetooth. To make things interesting, I threw in a mixture of Arduino Micro and Leonardo devices, just to make people familiar with them and get them out of the comfortable Uno habit. We decided to use ArduDroid to quickly prototype, since it seemed to be easy enough for beginners to use. Quite a few teams managed to make it work successfully, and a few teams were stuck.

While debugging, one thing I observed consistently was, that they weren’t getting any output on the serial monitor. And then it hit me, but of course ! They were using Micros and Leonardos ! Micro and Leonardo boards handle serial communication differently, they separate the USB CDC communication and the hardware UART communication. Well, I looked around, and did not really find too many people who had posted about this issue, and just a couple of them talking about fixes (the fix is pretty trivial of course) .

Anyway, I quickly put together a fix, so if you are using ArduDroid with a Leonardo or an Uno, you should be able to use it just like an Uno with the modified code.

Here’s the github link to the code for this :


Makers Of Ahmedabad


A short clip I put together while at Unbox Labs 2014 of the different making activities that happen in and around a city. Makers are everywhere, and the way the term is currently understood is rather narrow.

P.S. I am not an expert at video editing, and this is rather a crude clip quickly put together.


Social Injustices and PID


Social injustices are widespread, in every country of the world, be they in the form of economic, gender or class inequalities. Governments try to do away with some of them, and they sometimes work, but they almost always have some unintended and unfavourable consequences, documented or undocumented.

One (of the many possible) reasons why this might happen is because the intervening agencies overlook a basic principle, something that is sadly, taught mostly in engineering schools. The PID controller principle, a control system principle, is as much applicable to society as to mechanical, electronic and other engineered systems. Lost ? Let me explain.

A system is one that gets input, the input is processed to give an output. This is also called an open-loop system. A closed loop system is one that takes the output, uses it as feedback to improve the system processes, and thus improve the output, like a continuously self-improving, “closed loop” process.

So, how is any of this relevant ? Let’s get right to it, by relating PID processes to society.

PID stands for Proportional – Integral – Derivative. You don’t need to know calculus to understand, you just need to understand English to comprehend.

Imagine a social inequality, say an economic inequality between the rich and the poor. If the politicial ideology of a government in power of that country tends to be towards socialism, they might try to create “equality” in the economic conditions of the people. The measures that they take to bring this about is what we call a “process”.

Now, let’s assume that the government is smart, and understands the concept of PID. This is how they would shape their process:


P (Proportional) : The difference between the current condition and the desired condition would be what we call as the ‘difference; or the ‘error’. Now, the bigger the error, the bigger the correction you would need to bring it back on track, right ? Right. This is what is called the ‘proportional’ component. This components deals with the “immediate” nature of corrective measures required. This is good to start with, but not enough. Here’s why.

When the errors are corrected by applying “proportional” corrective action, they start going back towards the desired state. However, after they have gone back to the desired state, they will keep on going in the same direction, and start having negative consequeunces in the other direction. Why this would happen is because corrective action is taken to correct the error at that moment, and does not include the errors or corrective measures from the past, that also contribute to the present state and must also be corrected. Simply put, if you try to correct for undesired conditions, at some point it will reach the desired condition and then shoot onwards in the opposite direction, and will lead to a reversal of the initial problem.

I (Integral) : That’s where the “integral” component comes in. This components has to take corrective action based on the accumulation of previous errors. Integral basically means “a sum of all”. We corrected for instantaneous errors previously, but the errors _were_ caused, and they cannot be ignored. They must all be included, or summed up, and corrective action must be taken to fix them as well.



Sounds better ? Yes, but we’re not quite there yet. While doing all this, it’s easy to keep on going forever, because errors will always occur, and neutralizing them will contribute to some more error, and so on. However, it is necessary to keep an eye on the big picture, the overall scheme of things.


D (Derivative) : This is where the “derivative” component kicks in. Simply put, “derivative” means “rate of change of”. We must keep the results from the use of the previous components, P and I in mind, we must take a look at the overall state of the system, and the rate of change of decrease in errors, and see the rate at which the system is approaching the desired stable condition. We must then make some fine tweaks and corrections to help the system come to stability sooner, faster. The “derivative” part helps us do exactly that, by adding a component of corrective action that will help us bring equlibrium sooner using a general overview of things.

This is rather a simplistic model of things, but I believe this helps us understand a lot more about why immediate corrective action might not be good enough in itself, about what other components are involved, and what to demand of our governments and agencies. Also of course, I hope you understood PID controller ; )




So I finally got some more time to 3Doodle, and this time I quickly settled on a camera. It seemed doable enough, part by part. I got my 3Doodler ready, pulled out my black plastic sticks, and set to work. Sadly, I haven’t taken a video of the process yet (nighttime creativity costs you making videos !). Anyway, the result is a bit shabby but still pretty encouraging. I am getting a hang of the controls and the flow speeds now, and the next work should be even better.


I tried just wireframing first, but the cylinder + bodyframe were just too flimsy to support without all the filling in. I’d love to try a wireframe next, if I can manage it. I did use up all my black plastic sticks, must order some plastic soon !




After a pretty long wait, the 3Doodler turned up in the mail today !

Of course, you can’t lose any time getting started with it, so I opened up all the tutorials I could find so I could get started drawing. Getting started was easy enough, with the biggest problem being the question : “What to draw first ?”

Well, I got it soon enough. I should make myself a pair of cool shades / safety goggles to show off / work with. So I grabbed myself a pair of shades, sketched an outline (to ensure good fit), fired up the pen, and got started. The first results are below !

3DGย Glasses

Using the pen is fairly straightforward, you just have to keep drawing. Adding “finishing” touches so as not to leave strands dangling can get tricky, and I guess I’ll have to learn how to finish the strokes smoothly. It will also take a little time getting used to the flow of plastic to avoid the wavy and thicker lines in some places.ย  Also, the tip gets really hot (like a soldering iron), so be careful !

That said though, it is totally cool to be able to draw your wireframes or objects in 3D, it’s like taking things to a whole new dimension (quite literally !). I’m off to figure out what to do next, keep watching ๐Ÿ˜‰


Controlling TiM LED Matrix boards with Arduino Uno


I have a TiM LED board from my helpful maker friends at Wyolum to play with, and was wondering what cool application I could make out of it. I was thinking of games, animations and the like, and started to put things together, just to test waters and see what it would look like.

Well, first roadbump. There were a couple of things missing. They weren’t so big as to cause major inconvenience, but it definitely would help visual applications if I added them. I am talking about row manipulations, allowing us to manipulate the board as a whole (or a collection of rows) , rather than as individual pixels.

Well, having had some experience with programmable RGB LED strips before (though those were LPD8806 based, not WS2811 based), I quickly added the helper methods, and put together a quick sketch using the ever-so-useful Arduino Uno. I made a quick video of it, I am going to keep playing with it for a while, something cooler just might be on it’s way ; )

Here is the github link to the sketch and the library :

And here is the video :


InstallASound – Sound Shield for Arduino


Hello guys !

A little while ago, the amazing folks at Wyolum announced the Wyolum Innovation Grant. Hardware takes time, money and material to prototype, build and test, and these factors are often an hurdle for independent inventors who don’t have access to huge pools of resources. This grant provides funds 100% open-source hardware projects so that ideas / projects / prototypes in various stages of creation can progress further. What the inventor gets out of it is a chance to further their work with the help of the funds, and what the community gets is open sourced designs of hardware that they can emulate (or buy), as well as a knowledge base that is created out of the experimentation and testing that is carried out towards these products.

Well, as a part of my work and wanderings, I have come across quite a few cool projects, and those gave me an idea for a few more. Reading about the Wyolum grant inspired me to pitch in a proposal to convert one such dream project into a reality.

The need :
A wide audience uses Arduino for prototyping, experimentation, automation and other applications. There are a lot of sensors and actuators out there, as well as a lot of shields. However, one thing I did not easily find was a way to add sound to projects. Having talked to quite a few people, I found that there weren’t shields that were readily available locally, nor cheap enough. The few options that do exist either do too much (and thus add to the cost), or too little (cannot play MP3), or are just plain costly.

The idea :
The idea is simple. I wish to prototype, test and make available a Sound Shield for Arduino. It does not attempt to do much, just enough. The objectives are simple :

1. It lets you easily add sound (compressed formats too) to your project
2. It must be cost-effective

The Features :
1. Output from a 3.5mm Audio Jack
2. Commonly and easily available components to be used so you can source and build locally
3. Volume Control
4. Optional hardware control (play, pause, next) buttons on the shield
5. Software library

Here’s my entry :

And here’s the video I made for it :

Can you help me ?

Please upvote my idea here :ย by clicking on +1

Thank you, and I hope to create this soon ! ๐Ÿ™‚