Red Hat Ends the Sale of Cheap Red Hat CDs

Many computer users who want to try out Linux or Linux users who only access the Internet via dial-up, resort on buying cheap, Linux or FreeBSD, CDs from CheapBytes, UnixCD, Walnut Creek etc. Most of these cheap CDs are based on well known Linux distributions. This business is extremely common and perfectly legal so far, as it is going on since 1994 without any problems. You could buy, let’s say, the latest version of Red Hat Linux for less than $5. But Red Hat now puts an end in these deals regarding their software.The change in practice came because of complaints Red Hat received about discount CDs containing Red Hat Linux that didn’t include all its features or service options. London from Red Hat says, “What we were finding is that customers were calling us demanding support… we can’t stand behind those products.”

But Jason Phillips, founder of CD seller/auction house says it seems like Red Hat wants to stop all discounted and free distributions of its operating system. Phillips received a letter last week asking his company to stop selling discounted CDs with the Red Hat brand.

“You cannot even say that the CD-ROM has Red Hat on it or contains Red Hat Linux,” he says. “They say doing this is a violation of their trademark. By doing this no one will be able to identify if a CD-ROM has Red Hat Linux on it unless they buy Red Hat’s expensive boxed set. They think they’ve figured out a a way to discourage the GPL distribution of Red Hat Linux and make it impossible for customers to buy it from anybody but them. But what they are doing is GPL violation.” He adds: “What if all the GPL projects that make up Red Hat tell Red Hat they can no longer use their projects’ titles to inform the public about what’s included in Red Hat?”

This is a tough one. Red Hat allows the redistribution of their software, but not by using the name ‘Red Hat’. The NewsForge users are discussing the issue and both sides have good points: Red Hat is a trademark of Red Hat, but so is Linux. What if Linus Torvalds (as the owner of the Linux Trademark) would not allow Red Hat to call their OS ‘Red Hat Linux’? Another user writes, what if GPL program authors of programs (and owners of these program’s trademarks) included on Red Hat Linux argue that Apache should be renamed to ‘Commanche’ and Python to ‘RattleSnake’ for Red Hat’s official packages as an effort to boycott Red Hat and make things difficult for them, the exact same way as Red Hat does to OEMs? How good that would be for Red Hat’s business?

What really strikes these users is that the discounted Linux CDs are going on forever and by not selling Red Hat anymore, is rather disturbing or at least uneasy for the community.

“Asking from RedHat to indefinitely allow people selling their distribution, and advertising this in such a way that it looks as if RedHat stands behind a deal is simply too much.” a Mandrake Software associate agrees with the Red Hat’s position.

“I believe that these OEM Red Hat CDs should bear a big label saying that no support from RedHat is to be obtained and that’s all” another user adds.

Our Take: My first Linux distro was a Cheapbytes Red Hat 6.0 CD for $4.99. It would be a shame to see these “shops” like CheapBytes losing or damaging their business, when they are so much responsible for Linux’s success. Back in the day, most people were on dial up, they could not download or even burn (expensive CD writters back in the ’90s) a 650 MB ISO image. These cheap CDs helped greatly in the spreading of the Linux revolution. A revolution that Red Hat also eats from its fruits today.

Personally, I do not see the difference between downloading an ISO from Red Hat’s FTP server or buying the CD from a cheap place. If a user is… clueless, in both cases he/she will ask support from Red Hat (which seems to be Red Hat’s concern), even if in both cases there is no support for the freebie product. The user who said that both the ISOs and the cheap CDs should bear a label or notice that no support is included in these versions, is correct. This way, everyone should be happy with this issue. I wonder if Red Hat would be “ok” with the solution though.


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