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Novell offers Linux indemnification “upgrade”

Jan 13, 2004 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

Novell, which recently acquired prominent Linux distributor SuSE, has launched a copyright lawsuit indemnification program for qualifying enterprise and other customers. The company asserts that its legal connection to UNIX and SVR4 uniquely positions it to offer such indemnification. An indemnification plan for non-Novell customers is under development, the company says.

Novell says the new program is designed primarily for its large enterprise customers. The program covers copyright claims made by third parties against registered Novell customers who:

  • obtain SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8
  • obtain “upgrade protection” (a kind of software update subscription) after January 12, 2004
  • obtain a qualifying technical support contract from Novell or a participating Novell or SuSE Linux channel partner

Novell says its indemnification program will provide a legal foundation against potential copyright infringement claims from SCO. The company notes that indemnification is a standard component of most traditional proprietary software offerings, which has generally not been unavailable for Linux, heretofore.

The program will provide customers with “a measure” of protection against potential copyright infringement claims, and participants must accept caps and other limitation, Novell stated. The company offers more information about the program on its Web site.

Novell's unique legal rights

Novell claims that its position in the historical ownership chain of UNIX and UnixWare gives it “unique contractual and intellectual property rights” that include:

  • Novell's rights to license UNIX technology pursuant to a Technology License Agreement between SCO and Novell, including Novell's right to authorize its customers to use that UNIX technology in their internal business operations
  • Novell's rights to take action on behalf of SCO under legacy UNIX SVRX licenses pursuant to the Asset Purchase Agreement between SCO and Novell
  • As previously confirmed by Novell, copyright registrations on UNIX SVRX releases, consistent with Novell's position that it retained ownership of these copyrights.

Copies of relevant correspondence between Novell and SCO are available from Novell. “The rights reflected in these documents are part of the foundation for the indemnification program Novell is announcing today,” according to Novell.

Indemnification for non-Novell customers

Novell says it will soon announce a special program whereby enterprise customers using other distributions can become Novell SuSE Linux customers and participate in the indemnification program.

“We believe our new Linux indemnification program, supported by our unique legal rights, will provide enterprise customers with one more reason to include Linux in their information technology plans,” stated Jack Messman, chairman and CEO of Novell.

“This is an important next step in the industry's move to make Linux safe from litigation for end customers,” said Martin Fink, vice president of Linux at HP, which in September of 2003 launched a similar indemnification program of its own. “We are pleased to see and are in favor of Novell's effort to extend protection and peace of mind to its customer base.”

In related news, the Open Source Development League (OSDL) (which Novell joined in January, yesterday announced a legal defense fund “created to defray legal expenses of Linux users who may become involved in litigation with The SCO Group on issues that affect the Linux community and industry.”

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