Linux Litigation

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

January 30, 2004

2 Min Read
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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).

  • Microsoft

    Microsoft is a bit player in this arena, but we have to include it. The company released version 3.5 of its Services for Unix in mid-January. This is significant because Microsoft paid SCO's licensing fee for Unix. Microsoft also extended its support of Windows 98 and Windows ME until June 2006, a move some argue is intended to keep customers from switching to Linux on the desktop.

  • SCO

    SCO chief Darl McBride has written a letter to Congress arguing that open-source software and the GPL threaten "the U.S. information technology industry," our country's "international competitive position" and "our national security." SCO also has filed a "slander of title" lawsuit against Novell, in response to Novell's claims that it owns the AT&T code. Beyond the United States, SCO has announced worldwide availability of the SCO Intellectual Property License covering the disputed code.

    Despite all the commercial and political maneuvering, Linux is here to stay. In fact, we're so confident of Linux's long-term enterprise viability that we've dedicated an entire issue to the subject, helping you decide if Linux is right for your organization, and if so, where it's best suited. Here, we sidestep the politics and instead talk about Linux's commercial usefulness.Meanwhile, back at the bar, we're still waiting for a punch line, but the discussion is bound to get pretty interesting.

    Mike Lee is NETWORK COMPUTING's editor. Write to him at [email protected].

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