On September 23, HP held a press conference in which it extended an
indemnification offer to its Linux customers. If you buy a Linux system
from HP, the company will take on any liability that may eventually be
incurred toward SCO for the use of Linux. HP will also take on defense
against lawsuits filed by SCO. All a customer has to do (beyond buying
the system from HP) is to have a support contract and refrain from making
changes to the code.
To some, this move appears to have vindicated SCO's claims. Certainly SCO
didn't miss the opportunity rush out an even stranger
than usual press release on the subject:
HP's actions this morning reaffirm the fact that enterprise end
users running Linux are exposed to legal risks. Rather than deny
the existence of substantial structural problems with Linux as many
Open Source leaders have done, HP is acknowledging that issues
exist and is attempting to be responsive to its customers' request
for relief. HP's actions are driving the Linux industry towards a
licensing program. In other words, Linux is not free.
It is classic SCO to claim that indemnification supports its claims, after
arguing for months that the lack of indemnification supports it claims.
The market, in any case, read things slightly differently; SCO's stock fell
almost 10% after HP's announcement and SCO's PR.
In fact, a different interpretation makes a great deal of sense. HP, as a
company, has certainly made its share of mistakes. But HP is smart enough
not to wander into the path of a company prone to billion-dollar lawsuits
without being sure of its ground. HP is a Unix licensee; it has everything
it needs to verify for itself whether Unix code has truly been copied into
Linux or not. The obvious conclusion is that HP has decided that it has
little to fear. It would appear that SCO's bluff has been called.
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