A very interesting article (and active discussion thread) on the impact of copyright enforcement on buying behavior. Ernie Ball decided to switch to Linux after being busted by the BSA for copyright infringement of (apparently) Microsoft software.
However, anyone who thinks that by switching to Linux she can make this problem go away is naively WRONG. Here is the REALITY from Red Hat's latest License Agreement (which is the distro Ernie Ball is using):
4. REPORTING AND AUDIT. If Customer wishes to increase the number of Installed System, then Customer will purchase from Red Hat additional Services for each additional Installed System. During the term of this Agreement and for one (1) year thereafter, Customer expressly grants to Red Hat the right to audit Customer's facilities and records from time to time in order to verify Customer's compliance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement. Any such audit shall only take place during Customer's normal business hours and upon no less than ten (10) days prior written notice from Red Hat. Red Hat shall conduct no more than one such audit in any twelve-month period except for the express purpose of assuring compliance by Customer where non-compliance has been established in a prior audit. Red Hat shall give Customer written notice of any non-compliance, and if a payment deficiency exists, then Customer shall have fifteen (15) days from the date of such notice to make payment to Red Hat for any payment deficiency. The amount of the payment deficiency will be determined by multiplying the number of underreported Installed Systems or Services by the annual fee for such item. If Customer is found to have underreported the number of Installed Systems or amount of Services by more than five percent (5%), Customer shall, in addition to the annual fee for such item, pay a penalty equal to twenty percent (20%) of the underreported fees. [Emphasis Added.]
Here is a recent debate on the issue. As you can see, the relationship between this clause and the GPL is a bit murky. I agree with the viewpoint that the RH distro contains both GPL and non-GPL code, so it is the non-GPL code that is restricted from further copying. If someone wanted to go through the effort of subsetting out just the GPL code, it would work and be legal to copy widely, so RH is not in violation of the letter of the GPL, but it would be a lot of effort to do so on an ongoing basis. I wonder how the GNU folks feel about it though. I think I will ask them.
It will be interesting to see what happens when the all but one of the older versions of Red Hat (which apparently don't have this clause) go off support at the end of the year, and a bunch of users have to upgrade to RH Enterprise Linux (which does).
Here's the punch line: Red Hat is a member and on the board of the Software & Information Industry Association, which like the BSA, has a piracy watchdog division. So guess what, if Ernie Ball makes unauthorized copies of Red Hat products, someone can drop a dime on it all over again--here's the toll free number.