IBM: Courts will clear us of SCO's charges

IBM is not going to indemnify Linux users because, the company says, the courts will find the SCO Group's lawsuit is baseless. Big Blue addressed the issue this week at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo.

NEW YORK -- IBM is steadfast in its commitment to let the SCO Group's $3 billion suit play out in court, and the

company insisted Wednesday at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo that it will not offer indemnification for its customers.

"If we give indemnification, it does not get this over with. In our legal system, you go to court to get this over with. That's where we are putting our energy," said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's vice president of technology and strategy, during a LinuxWorld event. "We believe the suit has zero merit. The right thing will happen. Let it play out.

"Our customers have all the information. No community can feel better protected, given how this community has responded to the attacks."

Judging from the reactions of some enterprise users, IBM's strategy suits them just fine.

"I have no problem with it, and I don't think their refusal to offer indemnification validates anything SCO has said," said Joe Cooper, senior network engineer for the Bank of New York.

The SCO Group filed suit against IBM in March, alleging that the company improperly donated code from SCO's System V Unix to the Linux kernel. The suit has touched off a firestorm of additional litigation and threats from SCO and the open source communities.

To ease customer anxieties, leading server makers and Linux distributors began offering some measure of protection, leaving IBM an island unto itself.

Leading Linux distributor Red Hat Inc. was the latest, kicking off LinuxWorld with the announcement of its Open Source Assurance Program, which features an intellectual property warranty. The warranty guarantees customers that, if an infringement issue arises in Red Hat Enterprise Linux code, Red Hat will replace the infringing code.

Novell Inc., which recently acquired No. 2 Linux distro SuSE Linux AG, announced its Linux Indemnification Program a week ago for SuSE Enterprise Linux Server 8 customers. Hewlett-Packard Co., meanwhile, was the first among the major server vendors to offer protection for its Linux customers.

IBM executives yesterday went on the defensive about their decision and acknowledged that their competitors' protection programs are a positive move for the industry. IBM has even contributed to a Linux legal defense fund established by the Open Source Development Lab.

"Our position has not changed. We see no basis in the claims alleged against IBM," said Jim Stallings, general manager of IBM's worldwide Linux business group. "Look at the acceleration of Linux. Customers have voted every quarter during the process. They're interested in the value of what they're going to buy. They've weighed the risks and made their decisions."

Mike Shaw, iSeries operations manager for Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, in Fulton, Calif., agrees that the process should play out in court.

"Those companies offering indemnification are doing what they feel they need to do," Shaw said. "I'm not a lawyer, but this should play out in court."

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