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By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-01-13 Print this article Print

Im not sure though how much help indemnification really will be. IP indemnification clauses tend to be extremely narrow. For example, Suns "Linux" indemnification only covers the Java Desktop System, not the underlying Linux operating system. Hewlett-Packard does cover the operating system but only if youre running it on HP machines, and it only defends against SCO lawsuits. Novells policy appears to be the broadest, but it only covers SuSE Linuxs newest enterprise offering, not its older systems or "personal" operating systems.

Click here to read more about Novells Linux indemnification program.
Although, Im picking Linux examples, theres nothing unusual about these kinds of restrictions. Theyre quite typical of IP indemnification clauses.

If youre really worried about being sued by SCO, you should look into IP insurance. This is a very small, very specialized area of insurance, and youll need an expert. In all likelihood, your ordinary business insurance broker will not be able to help you. At least one organization, Open Source Risk Management (OSRM), is getting ready to offer what theyre calling comprehensive vendor-neutral open-source insurance: Free Software and Open Source Risk Management (FORM).

Other companies, like Black Duck Software Inc., will soon be offering source code auditing programs that, in theory, will automatically detect proprietary and open source code. In both cases, though, these organizations products sound to me like theyll be more useful to software developers and not software users.

So what can you do? What should you do? Im not sure you, as a Linux or any program user for that matter, really have that much to worry about. Aberdeen was unable to find a single example of a software vendor suing an end user for an IP infringement in a third-party program. Im no lawyer, but with 10 years in the IT business and then 15 as a writer about IT, Ive never heard of any such suit either.

Of course, SCO tells us that theyre going to change that in the next few weeks with the first such suit. But lets get real. How much of a threat is that really?

SCO has yet to prove anything to anyone. Besides, how many lawsuits can SCO file? No, I just cant see SCO IP litigation as a serious threat, and since no one else has ever even made such a suit, I dont think most companies need IP indemnification.

Now, if youre a software developer, its a different story. But, as a CIO, if you can get IP indemnification from your vendor for Linux, or any other product for that matter, go for it so long as it doesnt cost much of anything. It cant hurt, it might… maybe… help someday.

Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way. Be sure to check out eWEEK.coms Linux and Open Source Center at for the latest Linux news, views and analysis.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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