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Linux Litigation

It's ironic that an OS designed in the spirit of open and free access is caught up in licensing litigation.

The heart of the matter is whether Linux contains source code from AT&T Unix, and whether SCO owns the rights to that code. Since Rob Preston's Dec. 9 2003 column discussing those details, things haven't calmed down. Here's a quick overview of the latest happenings.

  • Novell

    Novell completed its acquisition of Linux distributor SuSE in January and has launched an indemnity program similar to Hewlett-Packard's, offering customers protection against future copyright challenges for the Linux systems they sell. Novell has also claimed ownership of the AT&T Unix source code.

  • Red Hat

    In mid-January, Red Hat announced an Open Source Assurance program, which contains two items of interest. With an Intellectual Property Warranty, Red Hat promises to replace any software deemed to violate intellectual property law in a manner that won't be disruptive to the customer. Sounds good--but as a customer, I'd rather have indemnity than assurance. The program also includes an Open Source Now Fund, which sets aside money for legal fees for companies involved in the development of software under the Linux GPL (General Public License).

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