Linux supplier Red Hat has unveiled a programme to guarantee that its Linux code is free of intellectual property infringement issues.
The supplier said its Open Source Assurance programme will protect all existing and future Red Hat Enterprise Linux customers from legal challenges while using the software.
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Bryan Sims, vice-president of business development at Red Hat, said that under the included intellectual property warranty, the company would replace any software code that allegedly infringes on other code so users and developers can continue to work with the products.
"It's clear that this is much better than indemnification because it provides the customer with a continuing right to use the software," Sims said. We think this is a huge benefit to customers and will keep the development going in the event of any legal challenges.
The Red Hat programme follows a recent string of indemnification moves by Linux companies to protect customers from infringement lawsuits, such as the $3bn case filed last March against IBM by SCO.
Last week, Novell, which recently bought SuSE Linux, said it will indemnify SUSE users from any lawsuits relating to alleged code infringement.
Sims, however, said the Open Source Assurance programme "has nothing to do with SCO. This is not a response to anything, customer pressure or industry pressure. It has to do with innovative things to making open-source solutions available to customers."
Legal help will also be made available from the open-source now fund, a legal defence fund started last August by Red Hat to provide money to defend Linux users from infringement lawsuits.
Red Hat has been offering these kinds of code guarantees to its largest enterprise customers since August and has now decided to expand the programme to all of its customers, Sims said.
Bill Claybrook, an analyst at Harvard Research Group welcomed the programme.
"In some ways, it's better than the others because [Red Hat is] saying they will replace the code that allows the infringement problem and we will then protect you in the event of a lawsuit," Claybrook said. "The difference is they said they would replace the code, which no one else has said they'd do."
Todd R Weiss writes for Computerworld