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Red Hat is to offer software warranties for enterprise users of Red Hat Linux, the company said yesterday.

Not only does the Open Source Assurance Program make Red Hat a proper grown-up enterprise software company, but it also offers customers a measure of vendor-indemnification against legal action on copyright infringement grounds.

And where would such a suit come from? Yes, that's right: SCO, the pantomime villain of the software world.

Let's recap for those of you who have been living on Mars. SCO owns some of the intellectual property rights to the Unix operating system - but how much and what, is in dispute. SCO accuses some vendors, but mostly IBM, of illegally donating Unix code to Linux, the Open Source alternative to proprietary Unix. SCO is sueing IBM for $3bn.

SCO is also claiming royalties from corporates for using Linux in their businesses. It is threatening to sue corporates. But it would rather get the customers to acknowledge the terms its SCO IP license and pay fees for using Linux.

If SCO's claims are validated in court, the Open Source foundations of Linux are undermined. Many big vendors are betting big on Linux as a cost-effective alternative to the likes of Microsoft and proprietary Unix.

This is why HP, Novell - owner of SUSE Linux, Red Hat's most formidable competitor - and now Red Hat are prepping indemnification programs. Also, OSDL (Open Source Development Labs) has set up a $10m defence fund to assist end-users and Linus Torvalds, inventor of Linux, and its most famous employee, against legal action from SCO. OSDL has already raised $3m, securing donations from HP and Intel, among others. ®

Related stories

Novell indemnifies Linux customers
SCO targets Novell, steps into new legal trouble
The SCO IP license: now it's Europe's turn
SCO sort of thinks there are Linux IP violations, but isn't quite sure

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