OSDL, IBM, Intel Launch SCO Legal Defense Fund For Users

The $10M fund will defend Linux users against possible copyright infringement claims by SCO.
IBM, Intel and the Open Source Development Labs are creating a defense fund to cover the legal costs of any customer sued by the SCO Group for copyright infringement.

The offer, announced just a week before LinuxWorld Expo kicks off in New York, is intended to reduce customer fear, uncertainty and doubt about Linux as SCO prepares a major case against a Linux user.

At Comdex, SCO claimed it would file the suit by the end of February.

To date, IBM, Intel, Montevista Software and others have pledged $3 million to the fund, which will be managed by the OSDL, the employer of Linux founder and lead developer Linus Torvalds. The OSDL said it intends to raise $10 million for the fund.

"[The fund] makes it easier for customers to adopt Linux without any concerns," said Chris Maresca, senior partner at Olliance Group, a Linux consultancy in Palo Alto, Calif. "The SCO case has not been a barrier to adoption."

In September, Hewlett-Packard won accolades for promising its Linux customers full indemnification in the event of a lawsuit. In May, SCO sent letters to 1,500 companies alerting them to potential intellectual property concerns and hinted that they--as well as Linux vendors--could be liable.

While SCO doesn't plan to target the channel with the copyright infringement litigation, some partners are worried about the continued threat of litigation on customer purchasing and services deals.

The offer from IBM, Intel and the OSDL adds a comfort layer for customers, partners and vendors, observers note.

SCO filed its first major Linux lawsuit in March against IBM based on alleged contractual violations. The Lindon, Utah, Unix company charges that IBM improperly donated Unix code it owns to the Linux kernel. SCO has yet to prove any of those allegations in court.

One Linux executive who worked at a Linux solution provider in Toronto said SCO's claims are having no material impact or "chilling effect" on sales because they have no validity.

"The only action SCO has taken against anyone is a contract breach suit against IBM. SCO has not made a single legal claim of copyright violation or dispute of the validity of the GPL," said Evan Leibovitch, president of the Linux Professional Institute and former vice president of marketing at Starnix, a Toronto VAR. "It's about time that SCO started to actually demonstrate any substantive violations before the media gives its claims any credence. Everything it has shown to date in public has been effectively shot down."

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