Red Hat has started to indemnify its customers against patent claims, following similar moves by Novell and Oracle.
The company quietly disclosed the change in a frequently asked question (FAQ) section that it put up on its website in response to the Microsoft-Novell Linux partnership.
Red Hat's general counsel Mark Webbink told vnunet.com that the changes went into effect on Friday 3 November. The Linux provider didn't advertise the change because it believes that offering Linux indemnification "isn't a big deal", he said.
Linux indemnification has been a major concern in the open source community after SCO claimed that it owned the intellectual property of the Linux and Unix operating systems and demanded that users paid licence fees. Microsoft is generally seen as the largest threat.
Microsoft is generally believed to be the largest threat to open source because the company faces the largest impact on its proprietary software from open source alternatives.
Indemnification means that a vendor promised to pay for any legal expenses and judgements as a result of patent claims. The Linux vendor previously to cure the cause of any legal claims, prior to Friday it didn't protect its customers against any claims.
Red Hat added the indemnification to its Open Source Assurances program. The program is designed to let companies use open source software without interruptions because of legal issues. It promises to replace infringing code or modify its software to prevent infringement. Alternatively the company promises to obtain the rights to allow companies to continue to use the software.
Red Hat said that it would provide additional information on the changes at a later time.
Despite Red Hat's claim that the indemnification "isn't a big deal," the company's hand was forced, argued Raven Zachary, an open source analyst with The 451 Group.
Microsoft and Novell on Thrusday unveiled their partnership and a week earlier Oracle announcement that is would start offering support and indemnification services for users of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution.
"The winners here are the Linux customers," Zachary told vnunet.com. "Now you have three providers of indemnified Linux in the market."
Red Hat adds Linux indemnification
By Tom Sanders on Nov 6, 2006 9:32AM