Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Is Red Hat violating the GPL?

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Right from the time it was set up in the early 1990s, Red Hat has always been some kind of a beacon to the GNU/Linux community.


There have been peaks and troughs, times when the community has been furious with Red Hat and others when the people have drowned the company in praise. There have been times when Red Hat has taken a wrong fork in the road, times when it has chosen the right strategy.

But never in this entire period has Red Hat ever been accused of forgetting its roots - that has been the company's strong point. It has always supported the upstream projects from which it uses software, contributed to every possible FOSS-related cause, and has still managed to keep the market happy when it comes to reporting time.

Nobody has ever been able to talk of licence violation - either in letter or spirit - and Red Hat in the same breath.

And Red Hat has never shied away from engaging with the media, be it mainstream or niche. The arrogance that comes to mark many successful companies - which try to obfuscate when queried until they come crashing down, hoist by their own petard - has never been part of its approach.

But now things seem to be changing. A few months back, Red Hat settled a patent suit with a patent troll, Acacia, over alleged patent infringement in JBoss, software that Red Hat owns.

Queries as to the details of the patent in question were evaded. JBoss developers need to know - simply because it is released under the LGPL a licence that prohibits one party from licensing a patent unless the same rights apply to all developers of the software.

How can these developers have any peace of mind as they continue to code? How will they know if they will one day find a patent troll on their heels, claiming that they have violated that same patent?

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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