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Red Hat and the GPL

Red Hat and the GPL

Posted Mar 9, 2011 20:58 UTC (Wed) by branden (guest, #7029)
In reply to: Red Hat and the GPL by sepreece
Parent article: Red Hat and the GPL

On the one hand, that's not necessarily true. If you're working for a distribution but work closely with your upstream, you might work "in" your Debian source or SRPM environment, but test for the existence of a user-reported bug in the upstream code first, and if it is present there, patch it there before porting it back down to your own distro.

Needless to say, this pattern is often done in reverse, but I'm sure a lot of upstreams would like to see more instances of the above.

And that's exactly why Red Hat's move here has some kernel hackers (Greg K-H at least) wincing.

On the other hand, as long as there is no information loss either way in a two-way transformation, and the tools to convert from one form to the other are widely available, I don't think the spirit nor the letter of the GNU GPL is infringed.

That Red Hat's conversion from source+patches to monolithic when generating the SRPM is inescapably information-lossy is precisely the competitive advantage they are seeking from it.


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Red Hat and the GPL

Posted Mar 10, 2011 10:28 UTC (Thu) by pbonzini (subscriber, #60935) [Link]

> On the one hand, that's not necessarily true. If you're working for a
> distribution but work closely with your upstream, you might work "in" your
> Debian source or SRPM environment, but test for the existence of a
> user-reported bug in the upstream code first, and if it is present there, > patch it there before porting it back down to your own distro.
>
> Needless to say, this pattern is often done in reverse, but I'm sure a lot > of upstreams would like to see more instances of the above.
>
> And that's exactly why Red Hat's move here has some kernel hackers (Greg
> K-H at least) wincing.

If I understand correctly, you want to cherry-pick patches from 2.6.32-el6 to 2.6.32-stable. So you're treating here "2.6.32-stable" as the downstream and "2.6.32-el6" as the upstream. Nobody disputes here that the monolithic kernel SRPM is making things harder. However, note that you are _not_ making modifications to RHEL kernel. You'd like the RHEL kernel to be distributed in your preferred form "for modification of something else", and that's not a right that the GPL grants you.

Red Hat and the GPL

Posted Mar 10, 2011 23:46 UTC (Thu) by branden (guest, #7029) [Link]

"Nobody disputes here that the monolithic kernel SRPM is making things harder."

Please be more precise. What is being made harder?

"You'd like the RHEL kernel to be distributed in your preferred form "for modification of something else", and that's not a right that the GPL grants you."

RHEL's kernel is not an independent work from the Linux kernel, be it the latest drop of the 2.6.32 kernel or some other variant. If it were, Red Hat Software, Inc. could just slap their copyright notice on the whole thing and tell everyone else to get lost.

Both of the things you are talking about are the Linux kernel, copyright 1991-2011 Linus Torvalds et al.

The Linux kernel is "the Work" under the terms of the GNU GPL.

The Linux kernel is not a "something else" when compared to the Linux kernel.

Red Hat and the GPL

Posted Mar 11, 2011 8:32 UTC (Fri) by pbonzini (subscriber, #60935) [Link]

> "Nobody disputes here that the monolithic kernel SRPM is making things harder."
>
> Please be more precise. What is being made harder?

Identifying RHEL patches that are not in 2.6.32-stable and applying them to 2.6.32-stable. Red Hat engineers do try to Cc stable@kernel.org on their patches, but it's possible that: a) they sometimes forget; b) they cherry-pick patches by authors who didn't Cc stable@kernel.org. Attems is trying to get into stable those RHEL patches which "fell through the cracks", and the monolithic SRPM makes the job harder. But he's not trying to modify the RHEL kernel itself (read on).

> Both of the things you are talking about are the Linux kernel, copyright 1991-2011 Linus Torvalds et al.
>
> The Linux kernel is "the Work" under the terms of the GNU GPL.
>
> The Linux kernel is not a "something else" when compared to the Linux kernel.

The 2.6.32 kernel as released by Linus is a Work. The 2.6.32-stable kernel is another Work that is a derivative of the 2.6.32 kernel as released by Linus. So is the RHEL kernel. Each is distributed separately and modifications to each should be considered separately. Cross-pollination of the RHEL kernel into the Linux-stable tree is modification of _only one_ of these three works---and not the one that Red Hat distributes. In this sense you're modifying "something else".

The GPL does not force whoever distributes modifications to make backports of those modifications easy. For example, renaming variables is an example of a possibly-hostile action that is not prohibited by the GPL.

But we're wondering dangerously into IANAL area, so I'm unlikely to comment further on this topic.


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