I wrote a medium size program for chip design and released it under the . In this field the world is moving towards cloud services.

Now a research group wants to contribute. Google promises to pay them - but only if I change the licence to something else. Google does not like the APGL. If I don't change the licence a group of students will rewrite the tool. (Likely under a permissive licence.)

What would you do?


Something else: adopt the #HackingLicense tesio.it/documents/HACK.txt

As an alternative, stay with #AGPLv3.

The choice is:

- let #Google exploit your work as #FreeLabour, or
- force Google to pay to compete with you but starting from scratch

Never let the bully get what they want.

@Shamar Background of the story is: The chip design ecosystem has a long tradition of aggressive closeness, extremely restrictive licences, non-disclosure agreements and the like. Main players are the silicon fabs and vendors of design automation software.
In 2020 another big player appeared: Google. They more or less bought a factory and stripped got rid of everything which makes open-source impossible. On top, they offer free fabrication runs. This puts them into the center of attention. ...

@Shamar Many people who wanted to create integrated circuits but could not because of licence costs and fabrication costs suddenly can do it. With the help of Google. And that is what Google wants. They want to cultivate a new open-hardware ecosystem. They have the first-mover advantage and they can easily shape the open-hardware movement to their needs. I heard a Google employee saying that they want to increase the production of own silicon by a factor of 1000. ...

@Shamar The open-source community will play an important role to reach this productivity. Googles open-source fabrication process is a big motivator to get hackers and academics around the globe to work for this ecosystem. The impact is already big.

One missing part seems to be the tool I wrote. I've chosen the AGPL for a reason. I've seen enough proprietary tools and also SaaS.

@Shamar However, what if Google just replaces the AGPL tool? They have the financial means, no doubt, but they also have the platform to find people. And they have a big influence on what tools will be used. The replacement likely won't be libre, yet put into the shade its libre alternative. Changing to GPL could at least preserve some of the initial motivation behind the program.
That's the dilemma :)


If you change the license, they will capture your tool and use it against the hacking community without any risk.

They won't try to impose a closed source alternative because they care for their #OSS narrative.

They will try to build a MIT alternative from scratch under their full control.

BUT by doing so, they might have legal issues with #antitrust as, given the existance of a copyleft alternative, their replacement will makes it clear that #Google is trying to build yet another #monopoly.

Instead if you surrender to their pressure and weaken the license of your tool, you make their OSS-based propaganda stronger and harder the antitrust case against them, because they will argue "hey, we just contributed to the ecosystem", while they got control of it.

So my suggestion in your case is to stick to the #AGPLv3.

Don't trust neither Google nor Google's engineers.

I did this error before, and it didn't end well:


@Shamar Good points, thank you!
I never thought about the antitrust aspect in this context. I suspect, the permissive alternative will not be developed by Google directly. They just pay a group at a university (as they do with many).

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