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.



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

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