Red Hat’s new policy strikes RHEL clone vendors

On June 21, Red Hat announced they stopped publishing RHEL sources to The source rpms for RHEL 8 and 9 will only be available for the customers receiving binaries.

This decision sparked a major uproar in the Linux community and resulted in another blog post expanding on the reasons for taking this step. Plenty of (sometimes too emotional) comments can also be found on LinkedIn.

One of the major points of criticism was a putative violation of GPL. This claim is false since the recipients of binaries will still be able to obtain source rpms. GPL does not force Red Hat to share the code with the public but Red Hat does that anyway by committing patches to upstream CentOS Stream repositories as well as project repositories. Technically, all the source code is out there in the public. The promise is fulfilled.

What does that change then? It will now be much harder to produce a 1:1 clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. So far, the rebuilders had everything basically delivered on a plate. New businesses popped up offering RHEL clone plus support at a fraction of Red Hat’s price. This was possible because those companies did not have to bear the software development and testing costs.

Rocky Linux, one of the most well-known rebuilds of RHEL, announced that they would continue rebuilding and the source rpms will be obtained via UBI container images as well as public cloud instances running RHEL. I believe other rebuilders will take the same route.

I’m curious what position Red Hat will take now.