What is firmware?
Firmware is software that is embedded in hardware.

It arrives with the hardware. The hardware cannot work without the firmware.  It is very much integrated into the hardware, the two are inseparable.

Do you need to license firmware?

In general all firmware will be covered by a licence (as it is software).

The licence comes with the firmware that arrives with the hardware that you purchase all at the same time.

It is similar to OEM licensing where there is a direct link between the licence and the hardware that the software was distributed with.

As the hardware is retired or disposed of, the firmware goes with it.

Licence terms

The licence will cover terms of use, what you can and cannot do with it as is always the case.

Under the terms of firmware licences you cannot separate the firmware from the hardware, they are one and the same thing.

All firmware licences that we have ever seen give free rights of distribution as long as it is with the hardware that it was intended to work with, but this would apply to distributors rather than end users.

The only limits that the licence might define are in terms of actually altering the code of the firmware, i.e. it is proprietary and shouldn't be altered without the express consent of the publisher.

But we have also seen firmware licences that are covered by the GNU GPL licence which means the code can be altered.

Do you need to manage firmware licences?

As an end user that purchases hardware that has firmware embedded in it, no, there is no licence management required in the sense that licences do not need to be purchased separately to the hardware.

Even if you need to reinstall firmware from scratch having lost the original, it would normally be available from the publisher's website at no cost.

It is only if you intend to change the firmware or distribute it or sell it that you need to read and adhere to any licensing t's and c's.

You may need to manage versions of firmware in the sense that as updates are released by the publisher then hardware needs to be upgraded.  In this case, every firmware licence that we have seen grants the right for updates to be installed without further purchases.

Of course there could always be an exception

If you know of any exceptions then please let us know - Contact the source

We now look at Open Source software...