OSDL goal: $US10M defence fund for Linux users

A planned $US10 million legal defence fund is being set up by Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) to help defend Linux users from copyright-infringement lawsuits that might be filed against them by The SCO Group.

A planned $US10 million legal defence fund is being set up by Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) to help defend Linux users from copyright-infringement lawsuits that might be filed against them by The SCO Group.

In an announcement today, the Beaverton, Oregon-based organisation, which works to promote the use of Linux and other open-source software, said it has raised $US3 million for the fund so far from companies including Intel, IBM, MontaVista Software and others.

"I'm confident that we'll get there, or at least comfortable enough that we set it as the target," says Stuart Cohen, CEO of OSDL, of the $US10 million fund goal.

"As the emerging centre 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 defence 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 6000 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. Last March, SCO filed a $US3 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 says 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 says. SCO hasn't yet backed up its allegations with any evidence, he adds.

"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 says. Intel "felt it was appropriate for us to take an action" on behalf of its customers by donating to the legal fund, he says.

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

In a statement, SCO says the defence fund doesn't affect its allegations about its intellectual property and Linux.

"Organisations 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 says in the statement. "Commercial end users of Linux that continue to use SCO's intellectual property without authorisation through a valid software licence are in violation of SCO's copyrights. We invite interested parties to view some of this evidence for themselves [here]."

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

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