Question from Larry: Hi, Rick. I love your blog and subscribe to your newsletter. I respect your opinions very much.
I’d like to ask a question if you don’t mind.
I’ve been buying yard sale items in bulk locally and selling them on Ebay for a couple of years now, and I’m looking to branch out.
I’ve been thinking lately about creating Linux installation media (DVDs and USB flash drives) on my home computer and selling them on EBay.
My question is can I legally do that without getting into any kind of legal trouble? I see other sellers doing it but I don’t want to get caught up in some kind of sting.
Rick’s answer: Thanks for the kind words about my blog, Larry. Much appreciated!
To answer your question, as I explained in this post it’s completely legal to sell free software that’s distributed under a GNU Public License (GPL for short), and that indeed includes Linux distros.
In fact, companies such as Red Hat have built hugely profitable businesses by doing just that.
The above being said, all the popular Linux distros can be downloaded from the web for free by anyone with a computer.
That might make selling them pretty tough, but you just might be able to pull it off if you can come up with some way to add some kind of extra value for the consumer to the deal.
For example, if you could come up with some type of valued-added product or service that you can sell along with the installation media that would greatly enhance your chance of succeeding (in my humble opinion).
You could use the aforementioned Red Hat company as a guide. They sell various enterprise versions of Red Hat Linux for hundreds of dollars each by bundling technical support and other perks and add-ons with the basic Linux software.
Bottom line: It’s perfectly legal to sell free software that’s distributed under a GPL license, but you’ll probably need to add some kind of extra value to the deal in order to make the endeavor worth your while.
Bonus tip: This post explains why I recommend Linux Mint as a great replacement for older versions of Microsoft Windows.