Rocky Linux Shares How They May Continue To Obtain The RHEL Source Code

Written by Michael Larabel in Red Hat on 29 June 2023 at 04:38 PM EDT. 123 Comments
Following Red Hat's decision earlier this month to limit access to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux source code and that leading to downstreams scrambling to figure out their paths forward to avoid tracking CentOS Stream instead and still aiming to offer 1:1 RHEL compatibility without being restricted by the Red Hat Customer Portal, the Rocky Linux distribution today expressed a few of the ideas they are considering.

On the Rocky Linux project site in a new post entitled "Keeping Open Source Open" they brought up novel ideas how they may obtain Red Hat Enterprise Linux source RPMs (SRPMs) via public cloud instances and/or via UBI container images based on RHEL from various online sources.

Rocky Linux 9

Here are a few key takeaways from today's Rocky Linux blog post:
"Red Hat’s Terms of Service (TOS) and End User License Agreements (EULA) impose conditions that attempt to hinder legitimate customers from exercising their rights as guaranteed by the GPL. While the community debates whether this violates the GPL, we firmly believe that such agreements violate the spirit and purpose of open source. As a result, we refuse to agree with them, which means we must obtain the SRPMs through channels that adhere to our principles and uphold our rights.
Fortunately, there are alternative methods available to obtain source code, and we would like to highlight two examples:

One option is through the usage of UBI container images which are based on RHEL and available from multiple online sources (including Docker Hub). Using the UBI image, it is easily possible to obtain Red Hat sources reliably and unencumbered. We have validated this through OCI (Open Container Initiative) containers and it works exactly as expected.

Another method that we will leverage is pay-per-use public cloud instances. With this, anyone can spin up RHEL images in the cloud and thus obtain the source code for all packages and errata. This is the easiest for us to scale as we can do all of this through CI pipelines, spinning up cloud images to obtain the sources via DNF, and post to our Git repositories automatically.

These methods are possible because of the power of GPL. No one can prevent redistribution of GPL software. To reiterate, both of these methods enable us to legitimately obtain RHEL binaries and SRPMs without compromising our commitment to open source software or agreeing to TOS or EULA limitations that impede our rights. Our legal advisors have reassured us that we have the right to obtain the source to any binaries we receive, ensuring that we can continue advancing Rocky Linux in line with our original intentions."

Rocky Linux is also said to be exploring other options as well and say they will continue working to serve the best interests of the entire open-source community.
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