It's not so simple
Posted Mar 2, 2011 10:41 UTC (Wed) by pboddie
In reply to: It's not so simple
Parent article: Red Hat's "obfuscated" kernel source
You may say it's a punishment, I might suggest it's protecting their business. And I still don't see where in the GPL this is prevented, although I will admit reading yours and some other points have made me think of things differently.
I don't care about Red Hat's business, but I do care about GPL compliance, so let's look at that aspect. To those who receive binaries (as part of their subscription), Red Hat also make the corresponding sources available, albeit in a form that others (who additionally have access to that software) may not prefer. In addition, Red Hat also appear to make the patches available on the condition that these are not redistributed, with the penalty for breaking this condition being that the offending subscriber's subscription is terminated and that they will receive no more patches.
Now, in the context of upholding the terms of the GPL, Red Hat appear to provide the corresponding sources to the binaries being distributed, so they aren't violating the GPL in this respect. Meanwhile, the patches distributed separately, whilst potentially being considered derived works of GPL-licensed work by other authors, still presumably come with all the privileges conferred by the GPL: you may still redistribute them, but Red Hat may then decide not to share any further patches with you.
Clearly, the GPL doesn't make anyone promise that they will continue to share new updates and revisions to a piece of software that has already been shared, so Red Hat can probably get away with making such continued sharing conditional on the "good behaviour" of subscribers. You can even turn this on its head and say that Red Hat only promises to share one revision's worth of patches but may continue to do so on the basis of such "good behaviour".
Having said all this, the divisive and isolating effect such policies might have, disempowering recipients of software and making them mere consumers, arguably work against the spirit of Free Software.
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