A $10m legal defence fund is being set up by Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) to help defend Linux users from copyright-infringement lawsuits that might be filed against them by The SCO Group.
OSDL said it has raised $3m for the fund so far from companies including Intel, IBM and MontaVista Software.
"I'm confident that we'll get there, or at least comfortable enough that we set it as the target," said OSDL chief executive officer Stuart Cohen of the $10m fund goal.
"As the emerging centre of gravity for Linux, OSDL is responding to a call for leadership on this issue. This fund sends a clear message that OSDL, in co-operation with others throughout the Linux industry, will stand firm against legal threats levied by The SCO Group."
OSDL said the legal defence fund, which is continuing to solicit donations from companies and individuals, will be used to help pay legal expenses of Linux users who have been or might be sued by SCO.
Last month, SCO began sending out written notices to its 6,000 Unix licensees requiring them to certify that they are in full compliance with their Unix source-code agreements and are not using Unix code in Linux.
Last March, SCO filed a $3bn lawsuit against IBM, alleging that it had illegally contributed some of SCO's System V Unix code to the Linux open-source project. Since the suit was filed, SCO has threatened to pursue companies using Linux which, it claims, infringes on its intellectual property rights. That case is not expected to come to trial until early next year.
Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said the company, which is a member of the OSDL board, has made a donation to the fund "that is commensurate with our stature in the industry".
Molloy added that Intel, as well as many of its customers, has received threatening letters from SCO. So far, SCO has not yet backed up its allegations with any evidence, he added.
"By refusing to disclose the basis for the claims - in other words, Where is Linux allegedly infringing? - The SCO Group is preventing the Linux community from [correcting] any infringement, if of course there is any infringement," Mulloy said. Intel "felt it was appropriate for us to take an action" on behalf of its customers by donating to the legal fund, he added.
Trink Guarino, a spokesman for IBM's Linux group, said today that the company fully supported the defence fund but declined to say how much IBM had donated.
However, SCO said the defence fund would not affect its allegations about its intellectual property and Linux.
"Organisations and companies can try to align themselves to allow end users to hide behind them, but it doesn't change the fact that SCO's intellectual property is in Linux," SCO said.
"Commercial end users of Linux that continue to use SCO's intellectual property without authorisation through a valid software licence are in violation of SCO's copyrights. We invite interested parties to view some of this evidence for themselves at http://www.sco.com/scosource/."
Founded in 2000, the non-profit OSDL provides Linux expertise and test facilities in the US and Japan to developers around the world. OSDL members include Cisco Systems, Computer Associates International, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Red Hat, SuSE Linux, Novell and Sun Microsystems.
Todd R Weiss writes for Computerworld