On Fri, Jan 09, 2004 at 03:00:37AM -0800, Dan Strick wrote: > >> > > RedHat is a company that tried to make money by giving away their > > product. They found they couldn't make enough money this way, so they > > stopped giving it away for free. > >> > > I browsed the Red Hat web site and saw the announcements for the > Red Hat Enterprise Linux product ($$$) and the Fedora Project (free). > Is Linux no longer subject to the terms of the GNU copyleft license > that would have required Red Hat to redistribute the basic Linux part > of its new Enterprise product for a nominal fee? It doesn't look like > the Fedora version qualifies unless it contains all the modifications > that Red Hat makes to the basic Linux in the Enterprise product.
The GPL makes no requirement that software distributed under it's terms has to be cost-free -- described in most Linux/FSF circles as "free, as in free beer". You can charge for GPL'd software, and charge as steeply as the market will bear. What you cannot do under the GPL is restrict people's access to the source code of the software, or in other ways control what the purchaser does with the software once you've sold (or given) it to them; other than requiring them to extend the same conditions to people they sell or hand the product on to. Contrast this with the traditional licensing model as used by Microsoft, Sun, Apple etc. where you, as the licensee, don't actually own the software, you just get a 'right to use' license. The 'free' in Free-Software refers to this freedom to use the software in whatever way you see fit -- described commonly as "free, as in free speech". Whether distributing and supporting software under GPL'd terms would form a viable business model was one of the great questions of the 90's -- after all, there's a built in problem whereby you supply the results of your intellectual effort to people who might well be your competitors. I think that question has pretty much been answered affirmatively in the case of large-scale projects such as whole Linux distributions, where each individual contribution forms a small fraction of the whole. FreeBSD takes this model on step further: it removes practically all restrictions on derived works. This permits a corporation to build their proprietary systems on the solid base of well tested, open source code and to direct their efforts towards their own particular added value -- Apple is the obvious example here: by using substantial chunks of FreeBSD code to form the Unix foundation of their product, they can concentrate resources on developing the user interface, which is really what makes the Mac distinctive as a product. The BSD licensing model means that the FreeBSD project as such could not realistically turn itself into a successful for-profit corporation and still maintain it's licensing terms -- consider how the OpenSSH project grew out of a code fork from an previous version of SSH Corporation code available under BSD-like license terms. However, anyone can take BSD licensed code and include it in a proprietary product; assuming that they can add enough value to make their offering competitive with the freely available product it's based on. Furthermore, by reusing exemplary open code (of either GPL or BSD-licensed varieties) in this fashion it promotes higher quality generally, standardization and improved interoperability. Cheers, Matthew -- Dr Matthew J Seaman MA, D.Phil. 26 The Paddocks Savill Way PGP: http://www.infracaninophile.co.uk/pgpkey Marlow Tel: +44 1628 476614 Bucks., SL7 1TH UK
Description: PGP signature