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Linux Backers Build War Chest To Fight SCO

Fund gets money from IBM, Intel, and Open Source Development Lab

The Linux community started putting together a war chest last week to protect Linux users from any legal action by SCO Group Inc. involving copyright infringement. And Novell became the first Linux distributor to help its customers fight lawsuits involving the open-source operating system.

The moves are the latest in the battle between SCO, which claims that open-source developers have illegally contributed its Unix System V source code to the Linux kernel, and Linux proponents. Hewlett-Packard, which last year sold $2.5 billion worth of Linux-related products and services, has led the charge to protect users, launching a program in September to indemnify its customers against Linux-related lawsuits.

Tom Fischer

Fischer says IBM's decision to join the fund is a "nice gesture of support."

Tom Fischer
Now IBM, the first target of SCO's intellectual-property lawsuits, has joined with Intel and the Open Source Development Lab to create the Linux Legal Defense Fund; they hope it will grow to $10 million. Novell, which last week completed its $210 million acquisition of Linux distributor SuSE Linux AG, says it will provide up to $1.5 million, or 1.25 times the amount of a customer's support and services contract, to help a company pay for any legal action taken against it for its use of the operating system.

GuideOne Insurance has been running its intranet and file and print servers on SuSE Linux and an IBM mainframe for two years. IBM convinced the company to make the move, says Tom Fischer, assistant VP of data systems. IBM's decision to join the legal defense fund is a "nice gesture of support," Fischer says, but he worries that larger, more influential companies than his will benefit the most from the defense fund.

Fischer hoped IBM would offer all its Linux customers indemnification, and he says that Novell's promise to do so "takes a little of the worry off."

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