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Legal? - Adafruit PiGRRL Zero - Hosting custom Retropie image

  • Hey everyone,

    First post here, my apologies if it's on the wrong board or if my question has been answered before.

    I've been doing a lot of research into Retropie and Raspberry Pi over the past two months, and over the last two weeks I've been looking into the legality of people selling systems "for use with Retropie".

    I guess what I don't understand is, is it legal to sell a system with only hardware, whilst providing a link to a pre-customized version of retropie. Is it legal to host your own custom retropie image, for use with a commercial product you are intending to sell? Is Adafruit doing exactly that with their image for use with the PiGRRL Zero ( And why do so many people get away with selling systems with Retropie pre-installed?

    To be completely honest, I ask because I've become very interested in the Gameboy Zero mod over at, and would like to be able to sell any units I make to supplement my income because I am quite poor at the moment. I would like to make sure I do this ethically and legally, but I also want the initial setup process to be easy for the end user. What would be the best way of achieving this?

  • @Woosty You'll find that it is illegal to sell this software for a profit. It is free.

  • Global Moderator

    said in Legal? - Adafruit PiGRRL Zero - Hosting custom Retropie image:

    What would be the best way of achieving this?

    Pointing your customers to the RetroPie website for download is as close to inclusion as is allowed.

  • Adafruit is providing a RetroPie Image? I didn't know that. How are they getting away with that? I mean, I love Adafruit stuff and have bought quite a bit, but as supporters of the maker community I'm surprised they're apparently in blatant violation of the license.

  • Global Moderator


    It really seems like they should know better. I'm downloading it now to see how old it is.

  • @obsidianspider They may have done this with quite a few of their other handheld builds as well, like the original PiGRRL

  • Global Moderator

    Without installing it, I don't know if it's a stock image, but It's RetroPie 3.7 and the image was last modified on September 12th of last year.

  • @mediamogul The description says it's preconfigured to work with their tiny TFT and such, so I'd say it's not the canned image, but I also don't have a spare Zero handy at the moment that's not half-connected to stuff to test it.

    Adafruit are trying to encourage people to make things, which is good, but this just rubs me the wrong way.

  • @obsidianspider - "I recommend using the BitTorrent link"

    Found these in 5 minutes as well, not sure if recommending torrenting Retropie is a good idea or legal. There should be heaps of other projects on their website involving Retropie where they are hosting a custom image. And I'm damn sure I remember them telling you to download their custom Retropie image in at least one of their videos on YouTube.

  • It is completely legal to modify and sell software licensed with a GPL v3 license. The important thing to know is that while it's legal to modify and sell software licensed with GPL v3 (in fact the license is there to encourage this kind of thing!) there are provisos.

    The license itself is somewhat readable: | There is an official GPL website which is vital to check out as well:

    Firstly if you modify RetroPie source code you'll have to distribute your own source code under a compatible license.

    Secondly, just like the RetroPie prebuilt images do not incorporate any 'non-free' emulators in its downloadable images, any content like emulator cores or ROMs that is not also distributed under a free license like the GPL will have to be downloaded by the user after they install the software. (This is where the bootleg RetroPies generally go wrong)

    There are other provisos as well. Check out the GNU site. I'm not a lawyer, just a fan and advocate of open source and creative commons licensing.

  • @mediamogul said in Legal? - Adafruit PiGRRL Zero - Hosting custom Retropie image:

    Pointing your customers to the RetroPie website for download is as close to inclusion as is allowed.

    I don't think this is accurate if RetroPie is using a standard GPL license. Could you clarify why it wouldn't be legal under the license to build and distribute RetroPie and its source code on another website?

    I'm not saying it should or shouldn't be done in this case, but from what I can see this project is licensed as GPL v3 which is explicitly designed to allow and encourage software to be distributed, modified, and redistributed as long as source code is included and credit is given to authors of the code.

  • No where on there site are they "selling" retro pie, the only thing they are selling are parts to make a box, they don't even sell the box completed.
    They preconfigured a version of RetroPie to work on a DIY device they show you how to make.
    They even have a page explaining how to download the software from the RetroPie website and making the configurations yourself to work with this DIY built, but for people that don't want to put in the time, they included they're preconfig file.

    Anyone can go to there site and download the preconfig file for there own use on whatever device they choose without purchasing anything from them.
    Download & Burn RetroPie
    Game emulation is handled by a package called RetroPie. It’s a complete Linux distribution designed specifically for running classic games on Raspberry Pi.
    Download the current version from the RetroPie web site, then write this to an SD card using Etcher or similar software.
    We’ll then make some modifications to tune this for the PiGRRL’s buttons and small display.

  • administrators

    There is some confusion here - the RetroPie-Setup licence does not forbid anyone to sell RetroPie-Setup (the main script which installs everything). We used to have a non commercial licence, but we changed it (because it didn't make a difference - RetroPie was sold anyway).

    However - Pre-made RetroPie images cannot be sold (or included with a commercial product) because much of the included software does have a non commercial licence. All the snes emulators, all versions of fba, the older versions of mame, the genesis emulator and so on.

    This is explained here

    There is not a legal problem with adafruit providing a image for free download, so long as they make available any code changes to any gpl parts etc. However, I don't want to support a customised image, so it would be better if their stuff could work with our default image. I don't know if they require kernel changes or so though.

  • Banned

    @BuZz I burned an image onto a USB and mounted it on the Pi just to have a rummage about. It seems fairly stock, for 3.7, I think. A few additions from adafruit in the config.txt to get the tft screen to run obv. and their Retrogame software.

  • Global Moderator


    while it's legal to modify and sell software licensed with GPL v3... there are provisos.


    the RetroPie-Setup licence does not forbid anyone to sell RetroPie-Setup... However - Pre-made RetroPie images cannot be sold.

    Very educational and an important distinction. Thanks for clarifying.

    We used to have a non commercial licence, but we changed it (because it didn't make a difference - RetroPie was sold anyway).

    Was this just to "roll with the punches" as they say, or was the non commercial license burdened with the expectation of futile enforcement? Also, if anyone knows how to beat the third level boss in 'Futile Enforcement', drop me a line.

  • administrators

    @mediamogul I would have to dig out the original discussion, but I think it was just felt a GPL licence was more appropriate for the code than our own non commercial licence (since it didn't work anyway). Either way we cannot enforce it :(

  • For what it's worth there is a simultaneous discussion going on right now in the libretro forums about how to rename several of the cores. The reason is that the authors of the original emulators do not want the name of their emulators listed anywhere by libretro even though it is their source code. The opposite scenario in a way, even though the GPL license is a common denominator.

    Those kinds of issues aren't solved so much by the letter of the license agreement but in keeping open lines of communication.

    I'm rooting for @Woosty to make enough side money on their project that they are able to afford to spend time developing new open-source code or system designs that might be useful for other projects :D

  • I do not see anything wrong with what Adafruit provide. They are not trying to pass it off as anything other than RetroPie with the tft software and custom frame buffer copy already setup for those people who either can't be arsed or are not confident enough to configure it from the stock image using their tutorial.

    I've built a PiGrrl 2 myself using their guides and the retropie install is not modified in any way.


    Let's not got triggered to easily. This is most certainly not another RetroEngine situation..

    What adafruit are selling are individual components, which when built and paired with the FREE RetroPie make an excellent portable retro console.



  • Global Moderator


    Nice build! I also love how perfectly messy your place is. It looks like it was set dressed for a television show about a typical bachelor. I try in vain to organize my mess, but it always ends up looking like I'm a hoarder who hasn't fully committed yet.

  • @mediamogul

    Not messy! Lived in!!! :D

    Just happened to have been shopping and pizza buying 5 mins before I took that photo. Hehe

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