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Red Hat CEO Urges More Code Sharing

Software exec rails against 'legal intimidation.'

When it comes to selling technology, U.S. software companies should seek to make the country's "global piece of the pie bigger," not try to restrict others' use of open-source software, Red Hat Inc. CEO Matthew Szulik said during a speech in San Francisco on Tuesday. And the U.S. practice of issuing patents and copyrights breeds intimidating claims by their holders and generates "a veiled threat of legal intimidation" to users of open-source code, he said.

Speaking at the LinuxWorld trade show, Szulik said more contributions to open-source software projects, and wider participation, will put the right software resources in people's hands overseas and give them the means to improve their societies. The Boston-accented Szulik put nearly as much foreign policy in his keynote address to LinuxWorld as Sen. John Kerry put into his acceptance speech at the recent Democratic National Convention. Szulik even ended with a quote from Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy. But the gist of his message was that the United States can't afford to entangle itself in copyright and patent suit technicalities, with the rest of the world eager to move ahead.

Szulik said he met recently with the president of India, "who spent an hour with me talking about how he was going to use open-source software to move a billion people and India's educational system into the 21st century.

But he criticized U.S. software companies "whose products have been commoditized but they continue to extort revenue" from customers who were locked into the product years ago. Such practices won't survive in a world capable of rapidly building its own software and catching up with the United States, Szulik said. He also said an intimidating legal environment wouldn't help spread the benefits of innovation.

The SCO Group Inc. has filed suit against IBM, claiming it had donated Unix code to Linux that violated SCO's copyright, and has threatened to sue large companies that use Linux software.

Szulik, however, didn't address Red Hat's financial results. Last month, the company said it's restating its earnings for the last three years to reflect a more-conservative accounting method.

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