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LinuxWorld: Red Hat pads fund to fight SCO, files complaint

Red Hat kicked LinuxWorld off with a bang when it announced it has filed a complaint in federal court against SCO Group for its "unfair and deceptive" actions. Also, it pledged $1 million for a fund intended to help the open-source community fight any legal action by the SCO Group, which revealed licensing fees Linux users could pay SCO for System V as a way of avoiding legal action.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fighting the SCO Group's ire with fire, Red Hat Inc. has pledged $1 million to a new open-source protection fund and filed a formal complaint.

In a news conference at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, Red Hat vowed to protect its customers from SCO's attack on the integrity of Linux code. In filing a suit in federal court in Delaware against SCO, Red Hat hopes to demonstrate that its products do not contain SCO's intellectual property. Going a step further, Red Hat's complaint asks that SCO be held accountable for its "unfair and deceptive" actions.

SCO sued IBM Corp. earlier this year, claiming that IBM incorporated code from SCO's Unix System V software -- which IBM licenses for its AIX Unix operating system -- into Linux. SCO has shown the code in question to people willing to sign a nondisclosure agreement, but the company has refused to make the code public. SCO has also sent letters to 1,500 enterprises worldwide, warning that those companies might face legal liability for using Linux.

Most recently, SCO said it had gained U.S. copyright registration for Unix System V and has encouraged Linux users to pay SCO a licensing fee for System V as a way of avoiding legal action.

SCO revealed those fees Tuesday: $199 for Linux on a desktop PC and $699 for a one-way server, an introductory offer that leaps to $1,399 on Oct. 15.

Red Hat, meanwhile, said it is using the court system in an attempt to validate the integrity of the open-source software development process, said Matthew Szulik, Red Hat chairman, CEO and president. Mark Webbink, general counsel at Red Hat, said that Red Hat's customers and Linux users should not believe SCO's public statements, which Webbink described as false.

Beyond filing a suit against SCO, Red Hat has created the Open Source Now fund to help nonprofit and small organizations in the open-source community fight infringement claims. Companies and individuals developing software under a General Public License can use the money in the fund, which includes an initial $1 million donation from Red Hat, to cover legal expenses related to infringement suits.

"The collaborative process of open-source software development, which created the Linux operating system, has been unjustly questioned and threatened," Szulik said. "In its role as industry leader, Red Hat has a responsibility to ensure the legal rights of users are protected."

FOR MORE INFORMATION: coverage of LinuxWorld news exclusive: "Who owns Unix? Open Group seeks to clarify" news exclusive: "SCO suit could set nasty precedents for Linux"

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