Hewlett-Packard Co. on Wednesday threw its hat into the ring over whether Linux contains unlawful Unix code, saying it would indemnify its customers against any legal liability from the use of Linux.
The SCO Group, which holds the rights to the Unix operating system, claims that Linux is an unauthorized derivative of Linux and sued IBM earlier this year for more than $3 billion.
In a conference call with the media, Martin Fink, a vice president at HP, said the company will indemnify new customers who buy Linux from HP, agree not to make unauthorized changes to the source code and sign a standard support contract.
Current HP Linux customers who have not altered their Linux distribution and who signed an amended contract will also be protected by HP, he said.
The move is interesting as SCO CEO Darl McBride has repeatedly said his company has no intention of taking action against either Sun Microsystems Inc. or HP for breach of their Unix licenses, saying they have both adhered to the terms of those agreements, unlike IBM.
But SCO earlier this year warned individual business Linux users that they faced legal liability for using Linux and then, at its SCO Forum event in Las Vegas last month, said it intended to sue them. SCO then also rolled out a licensing plan that it said would protect Linux users from legal liability.
HP was one of the largest sponsors of the SCO Forum, which enraged members of the open-source community, but later withdrew from giving a keynote or any other address at the event.
HP, which sells Windows, Linux and its own brand of Unix, HP-UX, sells a large number of Linux-based systems. The move is designed to ensure that customers continue to move forward with their Linux plans.