Novell offers legal protection for Linux

Novell expects this week to begin offering SuSE Linux customers some legal protection for using the open-source operating system, the fourth legal umbrella to emerge from a computing industry grappling with legal threats brought by SCO Group.

Novell plans to offer the legal indemnification once its $210 million acquisition of SuSE is complete, which should take place Monday, said Novell Chief Executive Jack Messman. A $50 million investment from IBM isn't yet complete, he added. SCO's legal actions against Unix and Linux are rippling across the industry. But the Novell initiative highlights the response now under way. "It seems like there is a groundswell of support focused on pushing this issue aside," IDC analyst Al Gillen said. Hewlett-Packard also offers indemnification. Red Hat has set up a legal defense fund to protect open-source programmers. And on Monday, Intel, IBM and MontaVista Software contributed to a $10 million legal defense that the Open Source Development Labs consortium set up to protect Linux customers against SCO.

Under Novell's plan, the company will provide customers with protection from copyright infringement lawsuits to the tune of $1.5 million, or a factor of 1.25 of their software purchase price. To get the protection, customers must buy SuSE Linux and support from Novell and sign a licensing agreement, Messman said. The program defangs SCO's threats for Linux customers, said Mark Radcliffe, an intellectual-property attorney with Gray Cary. "It's going to make it more difficult for SCO to put pressure on licensees," Radcliffe said. "I assume that now Novell has done it, other people are going to have to do it, whether they like it or not." Indemnifying a customer for 100 percent of their software purchase price is common, because lawsuit damages can be based on the plaintiff's lost profit, he added.

News source: C|Net News.com

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