I was wrong

...about Red Hat's EULA and its enforceability according to the license terms of the GPLv2. (Specifically in reference to my blog post last Wednesday).

And for that, I apologize.

Basically, the GPLv2 says there can be "no restrictions" placed on any use of the source code provided to any user of the software with its license.

Red Hat's EULA says that Red Hat reserves the right to terminate your business relationship (the Red Hat Subscription) if you redistribute the source code.

This doesn't restrict your right to share the source code that has been previously provided, since you are still free to do so.

It doesn't make sense logically, and certainly not ethically (I don't think anyone could argue this is in the spirit of the GPLv2 license), but legally, logic and ethics sometimes take a back seat to interpretation.

Update: I still think a court case could go either way given enough money and good lawyers, but apparently IBM's lawyers don't, otherwise they wouldn't have written the EULA.

This realization does nothing to affect my view of Red Hat's decisions concerning CentOS and the subsequent reversal of the promise to deliver cleaned SRPMs to git.centos.org.

But after discussing it (usually while being a bit impatient, sorry about that!) with a number of folks in the community (and a couple corporate open source laywers who were extremely kind to reach out directly), I am happy to admit I'm smarter today than I was last week, when it comes to GPLv2 and EULAs.

Nico's comment on my last post, especially, sums up the issue well:

There can be no license violation because the contract also says that any open source license supersedes the terms of the agreement. For example the prohibition to share source might not apply to AGPL software, because of the requirement to offer modified source over the network. So if anything someone whose support contract is cancelled could sue and ask for the contract to be reinstated according to the GPL. But I am skeptical that it would succeed, the lawyers know both copyleft licensing and contract law better than you and I.

I previously mentioned that in this entire debacle, there are no winners.

I was also wrong about that. Somehow, lawyers, they always come out ahead.


Minor typo:

"about Red Hat's EULA and it's enforceability" ->
"about Red Hat's EULA and its enforceability"

I certainly feel it's against the spirit, but it's in line with the letter of the GPLv2.

Listening to Mike McGrath talk, I definitely feel like his view of "open" software is about license compliance and ignores the community aspect, which in my opinion is the most important.

I have a feeling many of the folks who have been around corporate open source have a slightly distorted view of the software vs services aspect of GPL-based FOSS.

If they want to put more clamps on it, working in the BSD/MIT ecosystem would be more fitting (but then it would not be Linux!).

Then why is the GNU General Public License so carefully worded the way it is? If anybody can come along and make any claim about the sofrware based on their own opinions, what even is the use of the license? Why wouldn't everything just be public domain?

Couldn't someone publish the sources pulled from the redhat customer portal over tor so redhat won't know whose contract to terminate? It wouldn't be piracy since you're free to redistribute the sources. The termination of your rhel contracts is only 'private punishment', they cannot legally stop you from redistributing their stuff

"This doesn't restrict your right to share the source code that has been previously provided, since you are still free to do so."

Huh? The way you restrict people's right to do things is you credibly threaten to impose negative consequences on them for doing those things.

If a town wants to restrict overnight parking, what does it do? It passes a law. That law serves as an official threat that negative consequences will be imposed on those who park overnight.

RedHat's official threat to impose negative consequences on people who do something restricts their right to do that thing. That's the most common way you restrict things.

Or try it another way. Imagine if my employer refused to let me take Sundays off and I sued them. Suppose we settled and the settlement stated that my employer would only restrict my taking Sundays off if nobody else was available and agreed not to place any "further restrictions" no my taking Sundays off. There is absolutely no question that a credible threat to fire me for taking any Sundays off would violate the settlement.