August 6, 2003 2:25 PM PDT

IBM: Linux legal troubles will fade

SAN FRANCISCO--The legal challenge the SCO Group has mounted against Linux eventually will become a forgotten chapter in the operating system's history, an IBM executive told attendees of a Linux trade show on Wednesday.

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"I fully expect the current legal issues around Linux will be eventually resolved and forgotten," said Irving Wladawksy-Berger, general manager of IBM's e-business on demand group, in a keynote address at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo. "Successful technologies are remembered, but few remember the inevitable bumps in the road we all have to resolve."

SCO has sued IBM for $3 billion, alleging that Big Blue moved proprietary Unix code into Linux against the terms of its Unix license with SCO. IBM has denied wrongdoing. In addition, SCO has argued that Linux users should buy a Unix license from SCO to use Linux, asking between $199 and $699 per computer.

The moves aren't slowing Linux, Wladawsky-Berger said. "I expect Linux to be a major engine of innovation. I fully expect Linux will continue to be a very successful system in the marketplace, and its influence will continue to grow in the industry in everything from small devices to powerful supercomputers and everything in between," he said.

Some in the industry will embrace Linux, some will try in vain to fight it, and others, he said, "will start panning for gold."

Linux is developed by open-source programmers who cooperate by sharing code, a situation Wladawksy-Berger likened to physicists building on each other's work by sharing papers openly. In contrast to the position of IBM rival Sun Microsystems on Tuesday, he said the open-source programming model really is different.

"The fact that people working together as communities can innovate much more is nothing new. Physics has advanced because physicists have had a community. The same is true of biology and medicine, and more and more the same is true of computer sciences and software development," Wladawsky-Berger said. "We are seeing that as a community we can tackle software issues that are much more sophisticated and produce much better software than before."

But cooperative community work poses a challenge for a major part of the business world: controls over intellectual property such as patents and copyrights.

"Historically, government and society have been at pains to achieve the right balance between protecting intellectual property and stimulating innovation of communities working together. It's the way it has been for decades," Wladawsky-Berger said.

 

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