Red Hat

Red Hat in violation of the GPL? Discuss!

Submitted by Scott Dowdle on Fri, 06/23/2023 - 18:48

(There has been some discussion on the BozemanLUG mailing list and I decided to post my initial response here also)


----- Original Message -----
> Also relevant, Alma and Rocky Linux posts:
> AlmaLinux:
> Rocky Linux:

Generally speaking, I've been a big Red Hat fan since the mid-90s.  I certainly don't claim to love every decision they have made over the years.  I definitely didn't like that they killed CentOS Linux in favor of CentOS Stream... and transitioned CentOS, starting with version 8 forward, from downstream to upstream.  I also definitely don't like this most recent change of them no longer publicly releasing their complete, corresponding source (CCS).  Does the current change violate the GPL?  I don't think so but I have no legal training and don't have enough knowledge to make an assessment.  I'm guessing that they consulted their legal folks long before making this change and they wouldn't have made it if they thought it was a losing position.

To the best of my knowledge, the GPL has not been challenged in court and maybe this is the time for it to be... and if Red Hat is in violation, they should be held accountable.

One thing I do want to credit Red Hat with is their support of a large number of FLOSS development communities and producing a lot of free software.  That is something I assume they will continue to do for some time to come.  The good news is, that if any Red Hat customers aren't happy, there are plenty of alternatives to pick from.

After the dust settled from the CentOS Stream change, that just lead to an even better situation where there were/are multiple, good clones to pick from.  After the dust settles from this no-more-public-CCS-release change, will that inadvertently lead to some currently unanticipated better situation?  I don't know but my guess is probably.  I haven't read Rocky Linux's response (yet) but I did read Alma's (yes, I prefer Alma)... and given the expertise of the company that founded Alma Linux, while I'm sure there are and will continue to be various challenges that will have to be met, I'm fairly confident that in the long run, there will be little to no user facing negative consequences.  That's just a guess though.

The rebel part of me thinks that a cabal of Red Hat customers should ban together to share one source package each... so that the whole can be freed while making it really hard for Red Hat to do much about it.  I guess they could try but I don't imagine they'll be too successful biting the hands that feed them.  Alma already has to produce sources for packages that are required to build EL but that aren't actually released/packaged by Red Hat as they don't want to have to support those packages.  Who-da-thunk that was a thing? ...but it has been a thing for a long time.  Given the fact that Alma has been doing that for two major EL releases now is what gives me some confidence in their ability to overcome this situation.  It will take some effort for sure.

My guess is that Red Hat's change on this was mainly to combat Oracle and that Alma and Rocky are just adjacent semi-bystanders but I have no real evidence to go by and could be completely wrong.  If I was an IBM/Red Hat stock holder, I might be happy about this change.  Ah, nuance.

I have to wonder just how many customers Red Hat has booted for real or perceived reasons.  Not-very-many is my guess... and if correct, I'm also guessing it'll probably stay that way... but only time will tell.

Please note though that a license isn't a law... and regardless, I don't think they are doing anything illegal.  Perhaps that is splitting hairs but I just wanted to differentiate between criminal and civil... but again, I'm fairly ignorant about legal matters so don't hold it against me if I'm mistaken.

I do appreciate the discussion on this topic that has taken place thus far and look forward to it continuing.
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