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HP to indemnify Linux customers

The company plans to announce Wednesday that it will indemnify its Linux customers against potential legal actions by SCO Group.

Hewlett-Packard plans to announce Wednesday that it will indemnify its Linux customers against potential legal actions by SCO Group.

An HP representative confirmed late Tuesday that the company will announce plans to assume liability for its customers' use of Linux. Lindon, Utah-based SCO has asserted that its code was unlawfully inserted into the open-source operating system.

HP is one of the largest sellers of servers running Linux.

Sun Microsystems, which has a Unix licensing arrangement with SCO, earlier this month said it was considering indemnifying some of its Linux customers.

Earlier this year, SCO filed a $3 billion lawsuit against IBM for allegedly misappropriating Unix technology. Since then, the company has asserted broad rights over Linux, sending letters to 1,500 large companies telling them that they could be liable for damages because of their use of Linux.

IBM has filed a countersuit against SCO.

The HP representative said the company has no plans to sue SCO itself.

"We really thought about it and we decided we were just going to move forward and assume all risk ourselves," the representative said. "This is what we want to do to protect our customers."

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The open-source community has soundly rejected SCO's claims, although a couple of companies have agreed to pay license fees for their use of Linux, SCO has said.

SCO on Wednesday issued a statement hailing HP's decision to indemnify its customers and called on other major Linux purveyors IBM and Red Hat to do the same. SCO said that HP's decision underscores SCO's contention that there are legal risks in using Linux in commercials settings.

"HP's actions this morning reaffirm the fact that enterprise end users running Linux are exposed to legal risks," the SCO statement said. "HP's actions are driving the Linux industry toward a licensing program. In other words, Linux is not free."

Sellers of Linux and Linux-based systems have taken a variety of approaches, ranging from denouncing SCO's claims to filing suit, as Red Hat has done.

Red Hat also set up a $1 million legal fund--the Open Source Now Fund--to defray legal costs that may be incurred by Linux developers.