Insurance group: Linux free of copyright violations

A start-up company looking to provide legal insurance against copyright claims against open-source software has declared the Linux kernel free of copyright infringement.

Open Source Risk Management (OSRM) on Monday announced that it cannot find any copyright violations in the 2.4 and 2.6 Linux kernels, counter to claims from The SCO Group. SCO is suing IBM and other Linux users, saying the Linux operating system violates its Unix copyrights.

"We are saying that SCO has no copyright claim," said Daniel Egger, founder and chairman of OSRM. "We think they will lose."

An SCO spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

OSRM also announced it will offer indemnification on legal costs for open-source software, priced at about 3% of the desired coverage, for example, $1 million of legal protection for $30,000 a year. Open-source developers can also receive $25,000 worth of legal protection for $250 a year. The indemnification packages will be supported by OSRM's new Open Source Legal Defense Center, which has contracted with intellectual property lawyers across the U.S. to defend copyright claims against Linux.

"It's critical that contractors don't feel demoralized by this (lawsuit)," Egger said.

OSRM's legal experts studied the Linux code for six months to hunt for potential copyright violations and found none after tracing the origins of Linux's code, Egger said. OSRM checked the Linux kernel against an undisclosed number of Unix software packages. As a result of those checks, the company is comfortable offering indemnification against Linux copyright claims, Egger said.

The OSRM insurance package is more of a shared legal defense fund than a traditional insurance package. "(Claims) would be handled by a lawyer who's already an expert in this area," Egger said. "What you get is an aggressive defense."

While the SCO lawsuits gave Eggers the idea for the OSRM open-source insurance, the SCO actions illustrate a larger need for insurance against copyright claims on open-source software, he said. "(Linux developers) created something really, really valuable," he said. "In America, that attracts lawyers. We think SCO will lose, but (Linux users and developers) still need protection against lawsuits that have no merit."

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