Re: Obsolesence of Intellectual Property

From: James Wetterau (
Date: Thu Aug 03 2000 - 14:21:39 MDT

"Michael S. Lorrey" says:
> James Wetterau wrote:
> >
> > "Michael S. Lorrey" says:
> > > Except that linux is NOT free. It typically is sold on CD-ROM for
> > > $40-80, which is little different from other operating systems.
> >
> > The only thing that buying the actual CD from RedHat gets you is,
> > according to the website:
> > Installation support
> > Priority Online Access for software updates
> > Printed manuals and Documentation CD
> > A large collection of some of the most popular Linux applications on
> > CD-ROM
> >
> > > Can I reproduce a Redhat CD-ROM and sell them for a buck if I want to? N
o, I
> > > can't.
> >
> > Um, actually, as long as it's all GPL software, under the terms of the
> > GPL, you can do so totally legally. (There may be some non-GPL
> > software in there, I guess, that you'd have to leave out, though the
> > core OS is all GPL.) You can make all the copies of the GPL'ed code
> > you want and distribute them for any price you choose. That's kind of
> > the point of the GPL.
> So what you are saying, is that I can copy the Redhat CD on my burners, sell
> them and pocket the money, and RedHat will have to provide
> installation support,
> online access for updates, manuals and documentation, etc...

Well, no, and sorry if I phrased the "what you get" part incorrectly
or ambiguously. I believe the way it works is this:

By buying the shrink-wrapped RedHat box, you get the same software you
can get for free from the FTP site. You can legally distribute that.
In fact, Red Hat is legally forbidden from stopping you -- it's mostly
made up of stuff they merely bundled from someone else that comes with
the GPL attached, and they'd be in trouble for trying to stop you from
redistributing it, which is what they've done after all; redistributed
somebody else's GPL'ed code.

However, the "extra" value you get for buying the actual CD from Red
Hat in the nice Red Hat shrink-wrapped box for the full Red Hat price
is their printed matter, installation support, the priority access for
updates, etc. I don't know if this comes in the form of a certificate
with a unique RedHat cusomter ID #, or the proof of purchase number on
the box or whatever, but this is the one thing that a reseller cannot
provide. (At least, not legally.)

So in some sense I won't get the same thing if I buy the "Lorrey
Special Edition Red Hat Linux" distro for $5.99, act now, limited
offer, sales tax may apply. :-) I certainly won't get all those
items RedHat offers only to their own customers.

But I will get the core RedHat distro OS source and object code,
suitable for installation on my PC. And I don't think Red Hat can
legally stop you from going into that business should you so choose,
nor do I think they'd want to stop you. Moreover, I believe some
people are in that business -- cut-rate Red Hat CD's -- and Red Hat
has not tried to stop them.

So Red Hat is not trying to stop people from getting their Linux
distro for free, or even from redistributing it for money -- in fact
they in some sense encourage this by making the code available for
free FTP. They are trying, however, to encourage people to pay the
$40 or whatever for the support, manuals, etc.

All the best,

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