Some images on Azure are 'supported' via a 'plan' (see for example https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/virtual-machines/windows/cli-ps-findimage).

See for example:


A problem with this is that any subsequent images or VMs you create from the original VM also carry the same plan options: E.g.

az vm create \
--location "westeurope" \
--resource-group blah \
--name myvm \
--plan-name centos-8-0 --plan-product centos-8-8 --plan-publisher skylarkcloud \
--attach-os-disk copyofacopyofacopy \
--os-type linux

As an example, I have been given a VM based on CentOS 8 image originated by Skylarkcloud. Aside from uploading a CentOS 8 image I recieve no value from the fact that it is a skylarkcloud image rather than an untainted CentOS 8 image. In fact it has if anything had a negative effect to having to navigate around the --plan options (see for example https://serverfault.com/questions/1029522/azure-move-restore-a-vm-from-a-backup-what-is-a-plan/1029534?noredirect=1#comment1338348_1029534)

Paying for commercial support if required is one of the key differences between CentOS and RedHat variants. It makes no sense to pay (SkylarkCloud) for a free version (CentOS) of a non-free/commerically supported version (RedHat) of a free OS (Linux). A one off fee for distribution media is arguably fair. It makes no sense to pay ongoing fees for any future copies made by the originator or anyone given a copy.

I guess the idea is that the distribution cost (which is virtually zero for digital media) is amortised over the lifetime of the VM. But what about all future derived VMs?

Does adding a permanent charge violate any of the licenses for the software included in the image?

I am thinking particularly, of the anti-tivoisation clause in GPLv3 and similar (though I note the Kernel is only covered by GPLv2)

I think the answer is no here as Microsoft are supplying the hosting service and add the conditions to that service rather than to the content of the images. They can therefore add whatever terms they wish. However, something seems off here.

It seems to me that if you download your VM image and move it to a different provider somehow this could not apply. That freedom to download and transfer a snapshot of your VM should be a fundamental freedom in the sense the FSF is trying to protect.

Unrelated to this question is the question of whether it is possible to remove the plan from an image

There is an even worse problem with plans if this answer is to be believed:

Undocumented feature--if your publisher pulls the offer that you're using, you will NEVER be able to create a VM with it again. Not from an ASR failover. Not from a backup. So keep an eye on your versions.

I just spent the last 10 hours trying every way I could to recover a VM because the publisher had removed all versions prior to 10.6 of their software. My customer, even tho they're on a fully supported 10.5.1 release, is now fairly hosed.

  • 5
    Commercial usage, including charging for it is not restricted in any form by open source licenses as long as you follow it. Open source guarantees you that you are free to modify it, including removing the plan option, and distribute those modified versions - if you also follow the license. Aug 14, 2020 at 4:15
  • A VM image in an aggregation of independent works and can be licensed independently from the works it contains. Under what license terms is the VM itself provided? Aug 14, 2020 at 11:20
  • It seems I have insufficient privileges to view the terms via "az image terms show". I guess the standard Azure Marketplace terms apply - download.microsoft.com/download/F/D/8/… Aug 16, 2020 at 23:15

1 Answer 1


It sounds like these are all business-logic rules of Azure's VM-orchestration software. Since the software within the VM is GPL-licensed, you are legally free to download it and use it in a totally different deployment. As you've described the situation, there is no particular obstacle to doing that (beyond the general difficulty of copying and modifying an operating system and other components), so I don't see anti-Tivoization applying here.

You are paying for Azure/Skylarkcloud to provide an interface by which you can manage your VMs and have them updated for you. It sounds like this plan-lock-in behavior of Azure's VM orchestrator is a proper nuisance, but there appears to be no legal or DRM obstacle to making a network copy of your VM's software outside of Azure. I don't see this as a GPL violation, based on my current understanding of the facts.

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