Indemnification unnecessary: IBM

Indemnification unnecessary: IBM

Although Novell, SUSE Linux, Sun Microsystems, HP and Red Hat are all offering protection or indemnification programs to protect customers from possible legal threats stemming from their use of Linux, industry leader IBM has quietly remained on the sidelines.

But at the opening day of the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, IBM publicly weighed in on the issue, arguing that there was really no need for it to indemnify its growing pool of 6300 Linux customers. IBM’s rationale: The ongoing $US3 billion lawsuit filed against it last March by The SCO Group is baseless.

“Our position hasn’t changed,” IBM’s general manager for Linux, Jim Stallings, said. “The claims that have been alleged [by SCO] against IBM [have] no basis.” So indemnification is not needed.

Even if customers still had concerns, both major Linux distributions — SUSE Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux — had customer protection programs in place to help defend users against legal actions from SCO, Stallings said. In addition, the Open Source Development Labs, a non-profit enterprise Linux advocacy group, had begun a defence fund that it hoped would bring in $US10 million for users entangled in any related legal fights.

Despite recent legal threats from SCO that it could soon begin suing enterprise Linux users, use of the operating system among businesses had continued to grow, Stallings said.

“They voted,” he said of customers who have deployed Linux. “Given what’s there, customers have made up their minds by the thousands.”

An analyst at Progressive Strategies, Matt Plociak, said IBM’s argument against offering indemnification to its customers made sense.

“To me, if you offer indemnification, you’re saying there may be a problem,” he said.

IDC analyst, Al Gillen, said that while IBM continued to pass on indemnification, the company has donated money to the legal defense fund created by the OSDL.

“I don’t think there’s any real need to provide any indemnification until they have a customer who’s in some form of litigation” [in connection with SCO’s claims], Gillen said.

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