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RHEL and GPL

Posted on 2003-12-02
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Last Modified: 2013-12-06
Hi,

Just a general question in relation to RedHat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and the GPL.

You cannot download an ISO for RHEL, you have to purchase the product to get this. That's fine, the GPL gives them flexibility to do this, as long as they provide the source code (which you can download from RH mirrors).

In the RHEL FAQ: http://www.redhat.com/software/rhel/faq/

it says:
======
Q. You mentioned licensing - what does this mean? I thought Linux was free.

A. Except for a few components provided by third parties (for example, Java) all the code in Red Hat products is open source and licensed under the GPL (or a similar license, such as the LGPL). So you always have free access to the source code. In fact you can download it from our FTP servers at any time. However, Red Hat does not provide free access to the binaries of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and these, combined with an annual subscription to Red Hat Network, access to upgrades, and a selected support services, are the components that Red Hat bundles into each Red Hat Enterprise Linux solution. Since every Red Hat Enterprise Linux product includes support for the system on which it is installed, Red Hat supplies the products with a per-system usage/support subscription. This simple model ensures that systems which useRed Hat Enterprise Linux are able to access the maintenance, services and product upgrades to which they are entitled. Of course, as mentioned before, this has no impact on your access to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux source code.
======


The GPL: http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html  says:

======
3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above
======

AND

======
4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.
======

AND

======
6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein. You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to this License.
======

So, now that we have the facts, my questions are:

1. I concede that RedHat can license access to their support & update services (and prevent me from accessing these if I don't have a valid "license" to use them). Can they license me to NOT install RHEL on multiple machines, once I have a copy of the install disks (ie. purchase one copy of RHEL and install onto multiple machines) ?

2. If they can, how so ?

3. If they can't, how can I convince RH of this ?

4. Is there some other license that RHEL is governed by (I haven't had a look at a copy, so I don't know) ?

You might be wondering why I bother, when the actual cost of RHEL isn't too much (it's more than RH subscriptions were previously, but still not too much), well, I'm looking at running it on an IBM as/400 (iSeries) and I can run up to 20 virtual linux partitions on our box and I sure as hell don't want to purchase 20 copies of RHEL at AU$3300 each. The other reason for asking is that at the moment I actually just want to try it out and need to know if I can just get a copy of the CD's from someone who already has purchased the RHEL iSeries distro.

If I ask RH, they say "NO !" which is understandable, as they want to sell more copies of RHEL, hence why I am asking this question here. I realise the comments I get will tend to be against the RH position, but try not to get too emotional please ;)


(and the points is a random number I picked, I was getting sick of all these nice "even" 250 or 500 point Q's ;)
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Question by:td_miles
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by:jlevie
jlevie earned 77 total points
ID: 9864517
There's nothing that I see in the licensing statements that says that you can't build as many copies of RHEL from th source rpms as you might like to use. That places the burden on building, packaging and maintaining the result on you and such installations would not be able to use the RHEL update service.
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by:td_miles
ID: 9864546
What about when I don't build RHEL from the source (which I don't really want to do) ? All I really want to do is install multiple times from a binary CD set that would be purchased from RH (as you can't download the binaries).
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by:owensleftfoot
owensleftfoot earned 77 total points
ID: 9865782
"Since every Red Hat Enterprise Linux product includes support for the system on which it is installed, Red Hat supplies the products with a per-system usage/support subscription. This simple model ensures that systems which useRed Hat Enterprise Linux are able to access the maintenance, services and product upgrades to which they are entitled. Of course, as mentioned before, this has no impact on your access to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux source code."

I would guess that there is nothing to stop you installing as many times as you like but the additional copies will not have a support contract with redhat. That would be my understanding from the above anyway.
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by:pjedmond
pjedmond earned 77 total points
ID: 9865834
I agree that there appears to be nothing to stop you from installing as many copies as you like, with the proviso that you will only get support for 1 of the systems BUT:

Certain elements of the distribution ARE copyrightable. For example, the RedHat logo. RedHat are free to state that you cannot display the logo on a RHEL system without paying a licence.

Another example may be some of the 'standalone' elements in the distribution or the installer itself (useage of which to install on a system MAY require the purchase of the licence).

The problem here is getting RedHat to reveal which bits are not GPLed. This is a bit like the SCO lawsuit that is ongoing. If you build from the binaries, you can almost guarantee that the bits that you've built are the GPLed bits....the additional binaries on the purchased CD are likely to be the proprietary stuff.
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by:
Gns earned 79 total points
ID: 9866088
Gad you're typing fast today ... or rather I'm slow (hours slow:-)... Anyway, I wrote this "CC with owensleftfoot and pjedmond" prior to their comments being visible... and realised I'd taken a huge pause befor submitting (reload->what's-this-then:)
----------------
Note this piece of language (Snipped form the above):
> Red Hat supplies the products with a per-system usage/support subscription.

This is probably because RH is afraid to be in violation of the GPL, so even though RedHat would like to make it look like a "binary distro license" it is in fact a RHN subscription that "forces" the one license/seat.
As I interpret it, they cannot stop you from installing on multiple systems, but they will only honour one of these on rhn... the rest probably shouldn't run the rhn subsystem at all.
Implications would (of course) be a rather cumbersome up2date situation.
For some parts of EL there might be a different license (some part of the installer or somesuch), so a bit of prudence isn't missplaced here.

There are other products that have a slightly different sheme for things like this (dual licensing like MySQL etc)... Obviously RH needed to find a differnet path:-).

-- Glenn (who went Mandrake when RH dropped "the note")
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by:td_miles
ID: 9871465
So it would appear my options are:

1. Purchase a single copy of RHEL, install on multiple machines and potentially be in violation of some RH licensing they have added.

2. Move to another distro (isn't really an option, as an application is certified by the vendor as running on RH and they won't support it if running on other Linux distro except Suse, which has same cost problems).

3. Bite the bullet and shell out $ for each copy of RHEL we require (RHEL ES = US$349 each !)

4. Ditch Linux and look at other options ?


Does anyone have a copy of RHEL 3, which they could check the licensing terms of for me ?

This is pretty dis-heartening for those of us who moved to Linux as a "low-cost" option, the fact that it isn't nearly aws low cost as it used to be...
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by:jlevie
ID: 9872123
I think you skipped a 5th option. That being to purchase one copy of RHEL and build your own copies from the SRPMS. Yeah, that's a lot of work, but it doesn't violate any of the RHEL license terms that I can find. That appears to be legal for everything except the IBM version. That distribution I know contains binary packages owned by IBM and would be subject to separate T&C.

The way I read the license (which you can view at http://www.redhat.com/licenses) is that each purchased copy of RHEL (and the binary updates for that copy) can only be installed on a single system. So option (1) appears to me to be a direct violation of the license.
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by:td_miles
ID: 9872357
Thanks for the link to RH licenses. Having a read through it, they are licensing the services and their images/logos. It says in Appendix 1, section 1:

===========
Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat Applications (the "Software") are either a modular operating system or application consisting of hundreds of software components. The end user license agreement for each component is located in the component's source code. With the exception of certain image files identified in Section 2 below, the license terms for the components permit Customer to copy, modify, and redistribute the component, in both source code and binary code forms. This agreement does not limit Customer's rights under, or grant Customer rights that supersede, the license terms of any particular component.
===========

Which to me reads that if I want to redistibute the Software, I can as long as I don't use any of the RH images (which is understandable). Maybe I need to look into what it would be to remove the RH logos. It says I can redistribute in binary form too :)

I guess I need to talk to management and see which way they want to go. They may just say "screw it, license the lot" or not, you never know...

I guess I could build my own distro from the SRPMS, but
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by:td_miles
ID: 9872386
disregard the last line, I meant to delete it. I didn't realise I hadn't as it was below the scroll on the edit window
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by:Gns
ID: 9872992
> 2. Move to another distro (isn't really an option, as an application is certified by the vendor as running on RH and they won't support it if running on other Linux distro
> except Suse, which has same cost problems).

What application is that? You might consider not paying to much attention to the "certification":-). As an example, I run my Oracle management server repository on a Mandrake 9.2 system... which is not part of the very limited "certified" distros/versions... Neither were ever any of the freely downloadable RedHat versions.

And what exactly is the argumentation from RedHats side when regarding an LPAR system? It seems silly to not at least get some kind of volume discount (and perhaps you've been a previous RHN "customer" in which case you should be able to get the 50% "conversion discount").

I really think one _should_ pay for the software one uses... At least within reason:-).

-- Glenn
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by:willy134
willy134 earned 77 total points
ID: 9878943
Once you do one compile from the srpms you can mirror your disk images to all your computers.  That is definitely not in violation of the agreement.  However none of those machines will recieve RHN support.

If you are buying a large quantity of RHEL then maybe you can negotiate a price break.  I am sure they want to MAKE money as much as you want to SAVE money.  There has got to be a way to please (not meaning fully satisfy) both of you.

Call them and get a quote.  It is much cheaper than the $699 SCO fee. ;)
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by:td_miles
ID: 9917026
Thanks for the discussion guys. I've split the points evenly between all those who responded as I think everyone's opinion is valuable.

My question has pretty much been answered, if we want to use RHEL, we'll need to purchase it (no way around that, even if I don't want to use the support/update services)

At this stage I'm stil not sure what we'll end up doing. At the end of the day, we'll probably end up forking out the money to RH as we need to be able to get support from the vendor (which they won't provide if it's running on an "unsupported" OS. I have absolutely no doubt that it would run on eg. Mandrake, but these are the things you have to do).

I am tempted to build from SRPM's & do it myself, but again, this is a corporate situation, so they will probably say not to waste the time/money doing this, just purchase the product.

The other thing that sucks is the fact that if you buy any of the "basic" RHEL version, it is download only. We don't all have unlimited downloads & at $0.10/MB it'd cost me $200 to download it (which might actually make it more affordable to get the "standard" edition)

Q. Is it better to be financially or morally bankrupt ?  (no, don't answer ;)
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by:thorkyl
ID: 11216202
"
The other thing that sucks is the fact that if you buy any of the "basic" RHEL version, it is download only. We don't all have unlimited downloads & at $0.10/MB it'd cost me $200 to download it (which might actually make it more affordable to get the "standard" edition)
"

Pay for x Download it once and make your own CDs
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