OSI enforcement?

Raj Mathur raju at linux-delhi.org
Thu Jan 10 03:42:44 UTC 2008

On Thursday 10 Jan 2008, Rick Moen wrote:
> [snip]
> So, the correct answer to "Where can I get RHEL5 Update 1 Server
> Edition's gcc binary RPM for less than Red Hat, Inc. charges?" turns
> out to be "Well, in practice you probably can't, but you can have
> something very similar for free that you should regard as for most
> practical purposes functionally the same."

Er, excuse me, but where in the GPL (or any of the other OSI-approved 
licences) does it state ``you must give your software away for free to 
whoever asks for it''?  The GPL (and other copyleft licences) only 
require you to distribute source code to anyone to whom you have 
distributed the binaries.  They do not (repeat: NOT) require you to 
give your binaries away to anyone.

The correct answer is, if you ask someone for binaries of a GPL package 
that they have built (possibly after modification of the source), they 
are well within their rights to tell you to go to hell.  Believing that 
copyleft licenses require you to give your software away is a common 
fallacy.  They only prevent you from stopping others from giving it 

> > Except you can.  There's a reason that CentOS ranks above RHEL on
> > distrowatch and google search trends.
> There's a reason Red Hat continues to sell copies at full retail even
> to firms that have no desire to use its support services.
> > I am also unsure of your point.
> OK.
> My point is that "copylefted commercial software is something only
> stupid people pay for, unless they're paying for bundled services"
> (paraphrased) is factually inaccurate.

Not necessarily.  Red Hat can prevent you from redistributing its  
distribution (say RHEL 5) because they have embedded trademarked 
content into it.  So while the GPL (and other applicable licenses) 
permit you to copy and use RHEL5, you would be violating trademark law 
if you actually did that.  Much simpler to buy the software from RH (or 
use CentOS, which has rigorously eliminated the trademarked content 
from RH in their distribution).


-- Raju
Raj Mathur                raju at kandalaya.org      http://kandalaya.org/
 Freedom in Technology & Software || February 2008 || http://freed.in/
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