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Intel Steps Up to the Plate -- New Legal Defense Fund For Linux Users
Monday, January 12 2004 @ 12:23 AM EST

Intel has chosen a side: ours. Welcome, Intel.

OSDL announces today that it is setting up a legal defense fund to protect Linux users from You Know Who. They have raised $3 million so far and are aiming for $10 million, which they say they expect to easily reach. So far they have received funds from companies like Intel, IBM, and Monta Vista.

Stephen Shankland has the story, as always, as does the New York Times, which is finally waking up to the fact that this is the story of the year. They not only woke up, they call the operating system "GNU Linux". I think my work is done.

Joke. I have more to do. They incorrectly state that SCO hasn't threatened to sue Linus. They did, but it was while the NY Times was still sleeping. They'll catch up, though.

The fund, administered by OSDL, will also be used to pay Linus' legal fees. Even if he isn't sued, he will have expenses just from being subpoenaed and he will obviously have to testify at trial. This fund is being announced as a defense fund, according to Shankland's report:

"It would be made available to some Linux customers that come under litigation from SCO," said the OSDL's executive director, Stuart Cohen. A subcommittee of the consortium's board of directors will decide how to allocate funds, he said....

The funding would be used to protect Linux users who are sued for Linux issues common across the industry, not for issues particular to that user or company, an OSDL representative said.

The Wall Street Journal's David Bank narrows it down further, saying [sub req'd] that the fund is a copyright infringement defense fund and it got the first reaction from dear Darl and from Intel:

"We want to continue to provide peace of mind to end-users," said Stuart Cohen, chief executive of the Open Source Development Labs, or OSDL. "We don't want to see the momentum or deployment of Linux slowed down."...

Darl McBride, chief executive of SCO, said in an interview that the company has a "very short list" of potential legal targets and intends to file a lawsuit against a Linux user by February. He said the target company likely would be a prominent company that makes heavy use of Linux and also holds a license to Unix that specifies how that technology may be used.

"No amount of money into a defense fund can protect somebody if they're the guilty party," Mr. McBride said.

"Chuck Molloy, a spokesman for Intel, said the company was concerned that SCO has not disclosed specific details about the alleged infringement. "It prevents the Linux community from taking steps to fix the problem, if in fact there are any."

I figure they must have wakened Darl from a deep sleep, because his statement makes no sense. Of course $10 million will protect you if you are the "guilty" party, unless SCO plans on breaking knee caps or cutting off thumbs or something. Hmm. Should Linux users hire bodyguards to protect us from SCO?

Here's a list of the current members of OSDL. I see Novell has joined:

OSDL members include Alcatel, Cisco, Computer Associates, Dell, Ericsson, Force Computers, Fujitsu, HP, Hitachi, IBM, Intel, Linuxcare, Miracle Linux Corporation, Mitsubishi Electric, MontaVista Software, NEC Corporation, Network Appliance, Nokia, Novell, NTT DATA INTELLILINK, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems, SUSE LINUX, TimeSys, Toshiba, Transmeta Corporation, Turbolinux, Ulticom, Unilever, VA Software and Wind River Systems.

It's a natural fit for OSDL to defend end users, because end users are a part of their vision, as you can see from this snip of an interview with Mr. Cohen that IBM has on their site, "The OSDL Reaches Out to Linux End-Users":

Q: I read, for example, that you recently announced that Unilever, a non-IT company, has just joined OSDL as well. What exactly is a non-IT company?

Cohen: A non-IT company is an end-user of Linux. Our mission is to become the center of gravity for Linux, and accelerate the adoption of Linux around the world. To do so we decided we needed become a place where the development community, the IT vendors, and the end users can all come together to discuss Linux, in all it's dimensions, in a vendor-neutral setting. Companies like Unilever, for example, can participate in the customer advisory councils that we have put in place in the U.S., and will put in place in Europe, and in Japan. There are also technical and marketing workgroups they can join.

Q: What would a non-IT company gain from a partnership with OSDL?

Cohen: We want to add an end-user's perspective to the requirements-gathering process for Linux, for IT vendors and for the development community as well. We're offering end-users opportunity to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Linux and open source, with the key stakeholders, in a vendor-neutral setting. I don't know of any proprietary operating system that provides end users with that opportunity.

By the way, Google doesn't run Unix, does it? If not, that rumor must have been just some PR spin for a quiet day, because Darl says now you have to be running both Unix and Linux to make the cut. Companies that don't run Unix can sleep well tonight. Of course, with SCO, you'd best keep one eye open. They're like a rabid squirrel. You want to keep them in front of you at all times, in plain sight, and not make any moves that might set them off and running.

There is one more detail in the Wall Street Journal account. McBride says they will be filing with the court tomorrow, not just sending materials to IBM, so let's keep a lookout.

There's more bluster and a threat from Darl in the Journal article, which you can read if you have the appetite and if you have a sub. I hope Darl can get back to sleep OK. Nightmares might be a possibility, though, huh? IBM is offering a new point-of-sale product too, in case there are any big-name companies using Unix and some Linux and are thinking of switching quick to all-Linux for their cash registers or something:

SUSE Linux AG and IBM are now offering SUSE's first-ever point-of-sale (POS) Linux operating system combined with IBM's retail services and support.

In a deal announced today, the operating system, called IBM Retail Environment for SUSE Linux, will include an operating system based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, along with other software needed by retailers. The POS operating system is designed to be compatible with IBM's SurePOS cash register machines, eServers and middleware to allow retailers to create a scalable, secure operating environment across their entire business, according to IBM.

Yes, sir. SuSE's first ever POS Linux operating system. I'll tell you what. You *really* don't want IBM mad at you.

UPDATE: 2 PM

Somehow Forbes has found a way to make the legal defense fund sound like a bad thing, at least to business types. Their article calls it "An ACLU For Linux," which isn't a way to appeal to businessmen. I am providing a link, but I'm not encouraging anyone to click on it. I see no reason to give any support to Forbes, but suit yourself. Their coverage of Linux seems to me consistently hostile, and they get advertising based on clicks, I presume. As usual with Forbes articles on this subject, they don't have their facts quite right:

IBM and Intel plan to announce a defense fund to help little-guy Linux users pay lawyers in the event they are sued, presumably by the SCO Group, which owns the Unix operating system and says the GNU Linux infringes on Unix.

First, the fund is for anyone, big or little. Second, "GNU Linux" is not accused of infringing anything. Only the kernel, the Linux part, is. As to ownership, that has yet to be determined. How do you like their description of SCO? "SCO, which claims annual revenue of $79 million. . ." Annually? Since when? How long has this been going on? And what did SCO tells us to expect in this quarter? Any mention of Novell's copyright registration? Forbes doesn't go into all that. Then there is this:

The fund will defray legal expenses of Linux end-users (but not developers).

OK. That is true, as far as it goes, but where is the mention of Red Hat's fund to protect developers? As is typical with Forbes, the facts are almost correct but the hints and innuendo paint an inaccurate or at least an incomplete picture. You call that objective reporting?

Forbes' reputation is at stake, and their problem is that no one sees IBM as a radical, hippie crunchie. If the anti-Linux forces wanted to kill GNU/Linux, they should have done it a couple of years ago, before IBM and all the other corporations hopped on. It's too late now to persuade anyone rational that Linux users are radical, extremist, anti-capitalist hippies, not that a few aren't giving it their best shot.

SCO has put out a press release in reaction to OSDL's announcement:

The actions of these vendors today doesn't change the fact that SCO's intellectual property is being found in Linux. Commercial end users of Linux that continue to use SCO's intellectual property without authorization are in violation of SCO's copyrights. SCO continues to publicly show evidence of this infringement. We invite interested parties to view some of this evidence for themselves at www.sco.com/scosource .

"If vendors feel so confident with the intellectual property foundation under their massive contributions into Linux, then they should put their money where their mouth is and protect end users with true vendor-based indemnification," said Darl McBride, president and CEO, The SCO Group, Inc.

I guess it'd be mean to laugh out loud.


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