Red Hat Paywalls Enterprise Linux Source Code

Users must agree not to redistribute code to access customer portal

After the change, Red Hat Enterprise Linux source code is only available via the Red Hat customer portal. Photo by Josh Leivn.

By Josh Levin
Published July 10, 2023 | Updated February 18, 2024 at 10:27 am

Red Hat removed public access to their Enterprise Linux distribution source code, the company announced June 21.

“CentOS Stream will now be the sole repository for public RHEL-related source code releases,” Red Hat’s Vice President for Core Platforms Mike McGrath stated in a blog post. To comply with the terms of the GNU General Public License, Red Hat will continue to make the source code available to customers via the Red Hat Customer Portal.

The GPL is a free software license that many software projects, including the Linux kernel, are distributed under. The terms require developers to distribute source code to anyone who has access to pre-built, or binary, versions of the program. The license also allows users to modify or redistribute the program as long as they distribute the source code with it.

Previously, RHEL downstream source code was available from the CentOS Git repository. Now, only the upstream source code is available publicly. “However, this repository no longer hosts all of the versions corresponding to RHEL,” the Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation, which develops Rocky Linux stated.

To access the Red Hat Customer Portal, users must agree to terms which prohibit them from redistributing the source code found within it. “The way we understand it today, Red Hat’s user interface agreements indicate that re-publishing sources acquired through the customer portal would be a violation of those agreements,” Benny Vasquez, chairperson of the AlmaLinux OS Foundation Board of Directors stated.

“While the community debates whether this violates the GPL, we firmly believe that such agreements violate the spirit and purpose of open source,” the RESF stated. Both Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux are RHEL-compatible rebuilds based on the RHEL source code.

“I feel that much of the anger from our recent decision around the downstream sources comes from either those who do not want to pay for the time, effort and resources going into RHEL or those who want to repackage it for their own profit,” McGrath stated. “This demand for RHEL code is disingenuous.”

“Ultimately, we do not find value in a RHEL rebuild and we are not under any obligation to make things easier for rebuilders; this is our call to make,” McGrath stated in a followup blog post. “Simply rebuilding code, without adding value or changing it in any way, represents a real threat to open source companies everywhere.”

The Rocky and Alma teams both disputed this claim. “While we believe this view is narrow-minded, Red Hat has taken a strong stance and limited access to the sources for RHEL to only their paying customers,” the RESF stated.

“AlmaLinux, as a downstream of RHEL and as a community, has demonstrated our value both to Red Hat and to the open-source community at large,”  AlmaLinux Community Manager Jack Aboutboul stated in a blog post. “We’re strongly committed to the principles upon which open-source was founded and which the community expects — trust, transparency, honesty, integrity, and mutual respect.”

Stated the RESF, “In the unfortunate event that Red Hat decides to ramp up efforts to negatively impact the community, Rocky Linux will persist to continue serving the best interests of the entire open source community.”

The Terabyte Tribune will continue to cover this story as it develops.

Josh Levin is the founder and editor in chief of The Terabyte Tribune, handling all aspects of operations and coverage. He can be reached via email at [email protected]