US attitude to open source may hinder development, warns Red Hat CEO

Red Hat chief executive officer Matthew Szulik opened the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco with a warning that the...

Red Hat chief executive officer Matthew Szulik opened the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco with a warning that the US runs the risk of missing out on the move toward open source.

Szulik implied that the US' attitude toward open source, as witnessed by recent developments in US law, and copyright, education and patent policy could threaten his country's pre-eminence as a technology supplier.

"The US is increasingly becoming a fast follower," he said.

Szulik, who is also the company's president and chairman, called for changes to US patent and copyright policy, saying that existing policy was "potentially" unconstitutional.

"We believe that the current process of not requiring full disclosure of software and source code allows copyright registration to create an unnecessary threat," he said.

Questions about intellectual property liability and open source have been widely discussed in the industry over the last year, following the launch of a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against IBM by Unix supplier The SCO Group.

The company claims that Linux violates its intellectual property and that IBM hurt its Unix business by illegally contributing source code to Linux.

Red Hat sued SCO in connection with its intellectual property claims, and at last year's conference, Szulik had harsh words for the company.

"We've been patient. We've listened. But when our customers, the whole open-source community [and] our investors are now threatened with these unfounded claims and innuendo and rumour, it's time to act," he said last year.

Red Hat is seeking a declaratory judgment from the US District Court for the District of Delaware that would rule SCO's claims regarding copyright infringement untrue.

Szulik did not comment on the Red Hat lawsuit, but he offered a few words of criticism in obvious reference to SCO.

Since the SCO threat, the Linux community "rallied", and momentum behind the free operating system increased, he said.

"We now start to see the availability of a Linux operating system being able to run on over 1,000 commercial applications, the Linux operating system being certified on over 500 pieces of hardware," he said.

Red Hat unveiled a new application server, built with open-source contributions from a variety of suppliers including IBM, BEA Systems, Oracle and the Object Web Consortium.

But Szulik seemed more interested in discussing the broader issues affecting open-source software than Red Hat's products.

Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service

Read more on Operating systems software