“Why do I have to pay for Redhat if it is ‘Free Software’?”
Unfortunately but quite naturally, there are many many people who are surprised when they first learn that “Free Software” is not necessarily available as a free-of-charge download in immediately usable (i.e. compiled binary) form.
“Free” is an ambiguous word in the English language: Free like “free beer” (= gratis, free of charge) versus free like “Free Speech” (= libre, based on guaranteed freedoms, liberties).
This ambiguity is an old problem of the term “Free Software” – first coined by the “Free Software Foundation” (FSF) in the 1980s – and was actually one factor that motivated the foundation of the “Open Source Initiative” (OSI) and its official definition of “Open Source”.
Both definitions use the same criteria and are essentially different names for the same category of software. To acknowledge and peacefully combine both of these naming conventions some people also speak of “Free/Libre Open Source Software” (FLOSS).
The Redhat Linux distribution is Free/Libre Open Source Software. The source code is licensed under the GPL and similar Open Source licenses and can be downloaded from Redhat’s ftp server. The binaries are not available as gratis download, which is perfectly in line with FLOSS rules.
For almost every IT professional these days, it is very beneficial to understand what “Free/Libre Open Source Software” (FLOSS) is. It might seem like a complex and dry subject at first, especially when some business folks confuse things further by using the vague term “Intellectual Property” for everything from copyright, trademarks, patents to license agreements, etc.