OSDL goal: $10M defense fund for Linux users

The Open Source Development Lab said it has already raised $3M

A planned $10 million legal defense fund is being set up by Open Source Development Labs Inc. (OSDL) to help defend Linux users from copyright-infringement lawsuits that might be filed against them by The SCO Group Inc.

In an announcement today, the Beaverton, Ore.-based organization, which works to promote the use of Linux and other open-source software, said it has raised $3 million for the fund so far from companies including Intel Corp., IBM, MontaVista Software Inc. and others.

"I'm confident that we'll get there, or at least comfortable enough that we set it as the target," said Stuart Cohen, CEO of OSDL, of the $10 million fund goal. "As the emerging center of gravity for Linux, OSDL is responding to a call for leadership on this issue. This fund sends a clear message that OSDL, in cooperation with others throughout the Linux industry, will stand firm against legal threats levied by The SCO Group."

OSDL said the legal defense fund, which is continuing to solicit donations from companies and individuals, will be used to help pay legal expenses of Linux users who have been or might be sued by Lindon, Utah-based SCO.

Last month, SCO began sending out written notices to its 6,000 Unix licensees requiring them to certify that they're in full compliance with their Unix source-code agreements and aren't using Unix code in Linux (see story). Last March, SCO filed a $3 billion lawsuit against IBM, alleging that it had illegally contributed some of SCO's System V Unix code to the Linux open-source project. Since the suit was filed, SCO has threatened to legally pursue companies that are using Linux, which it claims infringes on its intellectual property rights. That case continues to proceed through the court system, but it isn't expected to come to trial until early next year.

Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said the company, which is a member of the OSDL board, has made a donation to the fund "that is commensurate with our stature in the industry." But he wouldn't disclose the exact amount given.

The company gave money because Intel, as well as many of its customers, has received threatening letters from SCO, Mulloy said. SCO hasn't yet backed up its allegations with any evidence, he added.

"By refusing to disclose the basis for the claims -- in other words, Where is Linux allegedly infringing? -- The SCO Group is preventing the Linux community from [correcting] any infringement, if of course there is any infringement," Mulloy said. Intel "felt it was appropriate for us to take an action" on behalf of its customers by donating to the legal fund, he said.

Trink Guarino, a spokesman for IBM's Linux group, said today that the company fully supports the defense fund but declined to say how much IBM had donated.

In a statement today, SCO said the defense fund doesn't affect its allegations about its intellectual property and Linux.

"Organizations and companies can try to align themselves to allow end users to hide behind them, but at the end of the day, it doesn't change the fact that SCO's intellectual property is in Linux," SCO said in the statement. "Commercial end users of Linux that continue to use SCO's intellectual property without authorization through a valid software license are in violation of SCO's copyrights. We invite interested parties to view some of this evidence for themselves at http://www.sco.com/scosource/."

Founded in 2000, the nonprofit OSDL provides Linux expertise and test facilities in the U.S. and Japan that are available to developers around the world. OSDL members include Cisco Systems Inc., Computer Associates International Inc., Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Red Hat Inc., SUSE Linux AG, Novell Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc.


Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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