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Linux License?

Tim Rolling
Advisor

Linux License?

I am a Linux newbie, trying to clear up some Linux license claims. We do not want to violate any valid license requirements.

We are considering Linux for our business, strictly for internal use as an enterprise server platform - no plans to develop and sell a commercial product. RedHat and SuSe are on the short list for now.

I keep hearing how Linux is available free, that I can just download the software from any distribution and run it on as many systems as needed without paying anything for license. But RedHat does not seem to market things that way. Today, a Redhat sales person told me they only license their products on a per-host yearly subsciption model, particularly for RedHat AS.

I need to resolve this conflicting information. What am I missing? Does RedHat really enforce these terms of use? How do we find and exploit truly "free" Linux OS?

Things are never as bad nor as good as you imagine.
10 REPLIES
John Poff
Honored Contributor

Re: Linux License?

Hi,

Generally the Linux distributions are free or available for a nominal fee. You can download the latest version of RedHat 9 for free and burn your own CDs, or you can buy it. What RedHat is charging for is the support. Their Advanced Server product [or AS as they call it today] isn't free, but you are paying for support up front.

JP
Steven E. Protter
Exalted Contributor

Re: Linux License?

Under the GNU License structure, Red Hat is not allowed to charge for any of the software or code.

You are allowed to use it on as many machines as you want. You are allowed to modify it and recompile it in any way you wish. You must not charge a fee for the software if you choose to distribute your new creation.

What Red Hat is actually doing is selling support.

The way they work the Advanced Server product or support for the free products is they charge a certain fee per processor or organization or installation. That is not for the software.

I am running a web hosting business on Red Hat 7.3 and have not paid Red Hat a dime. I even download patches and security updates and have not paid anything.

I am in perfect legal standing, even though my intent is to make money.

To fully exploit the Free Linux, all you need to do is install it and use it.

Money comes into the situation when you decide your business is important enough to have a support center to help you when things go wrong.

You can purchase Linux support from Red Hat. I believe you can even purchase it from HP.

Go ahead and use Linux, there is no fee or enforcement mechanism for the software.

SEP
Steven E Protter
Owner of ISN Corporation
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http://hpuxconsulting.com
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twang
Honored Contributor

Re: Linux License?

As said in this webpage, Red Hat's Enterprise Linux family of operating systems is available on a per-system, annual subscription basis:
http://www.redhat.com/software/rhel/purchase/

So we have to pay USD 1499 each year for Red Hat Advanced Server as subscription fee. For details please refer to subscription agreement:
http://www.redhat.com/licenses/rhel_us_2-1.html

The concept of annual subscription fee also applies to UnitedLinux
products.
twang
Honored Contributor

Re: Linux License?

As said in this webpage, Red Hat's Enterprise Linux family of operating systems is available on a per-system, annual subscription basis:
http://www.redhat.com/software/rhel/purchase/

So we have to pay USD 1499 each year for Red Hat Advanced Server as subscription fee. For details please refer to subscription agreement:
http://www.redhat.com/licenses/rhel_us_2-1.html

The concept of annual subscription fee also applies to UnitedLinux
products.
Caesar_3
Esteemed Contributor

Re: Linux License?

Hello!

Linux is a free, no need in license.
That's one of the issues of linux,
you don't need to pay for OS but if you
need a suport you need to pay.
With the distridutions you have a source
of the OS so you can made your changes
and this part can be on difrent license,
that mean license that you can change what
you want and sold it, or you can change what
you want but if you gonna sold it you need to
pay to the original developers and so on.

Caesar
Richard Scott_1
Frequent Advisor

Re: Linux License?

Hi,

I'm not sure about the legal situation concerning Red Hat, but the SuSE license has been discussed online many times.

For SuSE, the distribution contains both GPL (free) and proprietary code.

In a 'pure' GPL situation, you get a license to redistribute the code so long as you don't restrict the rights of anyone else. E.g. you buy one copy of Debian (a pure GPL distibution) and you can give, sell or copy it as you like, but you can't give/sell it to someone and say they can't copy it.

Note that someone said you can't sell GPL code - this is untrue in the legal sense, it is just that you will be competing with people who give it away (or charge a nominal amount for the media).

In the case of SuSE, the license for the proprietary bits (YaST, etc) prevents you from copying SuSE for sale. You can, however, legally buy/download SuSE and install it on as many machines as you like for your own/company's/friends' use.

The cost of the packaged products covers the physical components (media, manuals, box) and a period of support. Any ongoing payment is *likely* to cover support and maybe access to a special update service, but you would need to check to see if any software bundled in RHAS really does have a time-limited license.

I suggest you ask the RH salesman 'what bits of Advanced Server are not GPL?'

Richard.
Hans_8
Occasional Advisor

Re: Linux License?

You have found the main difference between OSS and closed products.
Yes, LINUX itself is completely free (kernel.org)But that is just the kernel.

You can buy complete distro's from Red Hat or Suse (and many many others) If you do that, you'll get a 30 or 60 days support, which is essential for certain users. Longer support CAN be purchased if needed.

The distro from Suse is NOT free (can NOT download and certain parts are not open) eg their installer & configurator YAST2 is not-free. The distro's from RedHat are free, after some time! If in needed of the distro-release ASAP, you'll have to pay, only after some weeks is placed on the FTP-servers and their mirrors. As you found, for support you have to pay FOR EACH MACHINE YOU NEED SUPPORT ON.
But you can obtain one distro, install in on two thousand machines and buy support for ONE machine. If any user is having problems, you should try to reproduce the problems on the machine for which you have support.
(for real serious trouble it is any way wise to try to reproduce problems)

Compare this to the way they guys from Redmond operate: You need a licence for each machine their product is installed on. For that money you'll get NON-support aswell. And if you're just a couple percent short in the amount of license, you can expect the BSA-gestapo.

So, the linux-KERNEL is free, some distro's are free, but support is never free!
For you info, some people on the pay-roll of redhat are very much involved in kernel support (like Alan Cox was for years)
And people at suse at the main writers & supportes for ISDN and USB drivers.

If you don't need any support (or can't afford), no problem, it is still legal. If you need some support or full support, you 'll pay!

Sounds fair to me

Finally, products like Star-Office (linux-version) or Ximian-connector are NOT free!
For Star-Office (with SUN-support) there is an anternative: OpenOffice. No alternative for connector.

Hans
Richard Scott_1
Frequent Advisor

Re: Linux License?

OK, I am not a lawyer but the second link given by twang contains this statement:

"Red Hat Enterprise Linux itself is a collective work under U.S. Copyright Law. Subject to the trademark use limitations set forth below, Red Hat grants Customer a license in this collective work pursuant to the GNU General Public License."

Now I read that as saying the software is GPL (free to use) and so the subcription is for the 'services' (support, RHEN, update notification etc.) and not for 'use of the software'.

Note that the IBM Java JDK is specifically excluded from that statement and is under a separate license.

Richard.
John Meissner
Esteemed Contributor

Re: Linux License?

ok realy short answer
Red Hat 9 is free
Red Hat 8 is free
any distribution such as that is free to download and install on as many machines as you'd like.

Red Hat advanced server is not free
it's a licensed product and basically you're paying for support - not the product... but to get this product you need to but support.
All paths lead to destiny
Tim Rolling
Advisor

Re: Linux License?

Wow. I appreciate the replies. There seems to be a little mix of opinion on this subject. Should not be surprised though, considering the current news headlines - "SCO Files Suit Against IBM". Even a little fear, uncertianty, and doubt over intellectual property ownership can stir quite a feeding frenzy.

I think we will take a conservative approach and purchase some support, at least until I can be certian of the legal liabilities. Thanks to everyone.
Things are never as bad nor as good as you imagine.