juridical Question on software and GPL

Niall Douglas s_fsfeurope2 at nedprod.com
Sat Mar 27 23:16:41 UTC 2004

Hash: SHA1

On 27 Mar 2004 at 21:28, Jeroen Dekkers wrote:

> > the reason why red hat is so successfull is that they don't pay for
> > the capital on base of which they earn money: software. you can say
> > they exploit the free software programmers. so they get software for
> > free out of which they can win surplus value. but this is based on a
> > very small idealistic community of free software programmers who
> This is totally bullshit.
> Red Hat is not exploiting te community.  Red Hat is one of the biggest
> contributers to the projects forming the core of GNU/Linux operating
> system, that is to linux, glibc, gcc, binutils and more.  Other than
> that, every piece of software Red Hat has created is released under a
> Free Software license as far as I know.

He was using "exploit" in the economic sense eg; exploiting 
resources. I don't think anyone here would disagree that RedHat are 
one of the best resellers of free software - they owe their 
preeminent position to maintaining good relations with the leading 
free software projects.

However, economically they are only financially viable because their 
software development cost is tiny precisely because they get it for 
free. RedHat's business model can never be particularly profitable - 
it's based almost entirely on companies buying peace of mind rather 
than anything tangible (consulting services and support can be found 
elsewhere and cheaper). And if IBM committed all the way to Linux, it 
could put RedHat out of business within a year - however they are 
clearly playing it safe for now, keeping fingers in pies and 
maintaining a launch pad for retaking the PC OS market from Microsoft 
if the chance ever arises. I personally think Microsoft leave RedHat 
alone because they can point to Linux as evidence that they are not a 
monopoly and thus avoid anti-trust attention (just like they did with 
Apple) - however, they too could crush RedHat in months if they 

In the business world, this whole free software thing is still very 
puzzling to most executives. They have difficulty seeing how it can 
make money. However, if it ever became obviously useful for 
leveraging sales of something which did make a lot of money, expect 
the whole free software scene to change radically & fast - and 
probably in a way abhorrent to most within it.


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