HP last week sent a message to the Linux community that may be interpreted a number of ways. HP announced that it would protect any of its Linux customers from any potential future lawsuits that might come from The SCO Group regarding that vendor's claims that Linux violates its intellectual property rights. HP says it would essentially shoulder any legal costs or burdens of any of its Linux customers if such a suit from SCO arose.\u00a0But this guarantee of indemnification comes with some fine print. The Linux distributions must be bought from HP, run on HP hardware, and include an HP support contract in order for customers to be protected against SCO's lawyers. Additionally, customers cannot make any changes to the Linux kernel code they're running if they want the backing of HP's legal eagles in the future.In doing this, HP is saying shame on IBM for leaving its Linux customers in the lurch - along with Dell and Sun. It's a good marketing tactic. But where does such a deal leave HP Linux customers? With such limitations, they might just be better off buying a Windows or even a low-end HP-XU server and support contract.The move even pleased SCO, which said in a statement: "HP's actions ... 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."If SCO's goal was to end the flexibility and openness for which users have lauded Linux, HP's move may have gotten them a step closer.