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Avoiding Law Suits

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  • sara_j_porter
    An interesting article on the NY Times site today http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/01/technology/01soft.html Freely distributed open-source software like the
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2005
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      An interesting article on the NY Times site today
      http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/01/technology/01soft.html

      Freely distributed open-source software like the Linux operating
      system has become increasingly popular, but one cloud over its future
      has been legal risk. So far, most of the lawsuits have involved
      claims that software code owned by someone else found its way into a
      cooperative programming project.

      A nonprofit legal center opening today, backed by $4 million in
      initial financing from a corporate consortium, will provide advice
      from specialists that is intended to minimize the risk that
      developers and users of free software will be sued.
      The Software Freedom Law Center, its founders say, will focus on
      helping the leaders of open-source software projects organize and
      manage their work in ways that anticipate and avoid potential legal
      pitfalls.

      A suit against I.B.M., seeking $1 billion, is largely responsible for
      the legal worries surrounding open-source software. The SCO Group, a
      small Utah company, has accused I.B.M. of contributing code to Linux
      that SCO legally controlled. I.B.M. has denied the accusations.
      "The SCO suit shows the need to really focus early on how open-source
      projects are structured and managed," said Eben Moglen, a law
      professor at Columbia University and a specialist in copyright law
      and software, who will be chairman of the new center. "That case is
      mostly a dispute about how software is put together.

      "We want to provide open-source projects with the groundwork so they
      know their projects are legally sound and put together with
      confidence," Mr. Moglen added.

      The center, based in New York, will offer free advice to nonprofit
      open-source software projects and developers. Private companies use
      open-source software and their programmers contribute code, but
      nonprofit groups typically organize projects like Linux, Apache and
      Debian.

      The initial funding for the center comes from the Open Source
      Development Labs, a consortium that seeks to accelerate the adoption
      of Linux. Its members include I.B.M., Intel and Hewlett-Packard.
      Linus Torvalds, who wrote the core of the Linux operating system, is
      employed by the group.

      Last year, the group coordinated a $10 million defense fund to
      provide support for Mr. Torvalds and any users of Linux that might be
      sued by SCO.

      The corporate champions of Linux say that legal support is needed for
      the further growth of Linux and the open-source software that will
      run on it. "This is one more step in the maturing process of open
      source," said Stuart Cohen, chief executive of the Open Source
      Development Labs.

      The legal center's board consists of a group of lawyers who are
      specialists on intellectual property and open-source software.
      Besides Mr. Moglen, it includes Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at
      Stanford University; Diane Peters, general counsel of the open source
      labs; and Daniel Weitzner, a lawyer and researcher at the Computer
      Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the Massachusetts
      Institute of Technology.

      "Open-source software has been really important to the development of
      the Internet and the Web as a global communications and information
      medium," Mr. Weitzner said. "The idea of the center is to provide
      legal and strategic resources to help open source continue to grow."
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