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A Closer Look At Oracle's (Legal) Linux 66

Posted by Hemos
from the shiny-new-paint-job-but-serious-engine-problems dept.
A reader wrote to us with Matt Asay's Infoworld piece digging into the legal background of Oracle's indemnification offerings for Linux. Turns out, things are not quite so rosy as PR would make it seem. I know, I know...suprise all around. You can read Oracle's FAQ about it, but some of the tastier bits are that the indemnification covers *just* the kernel, and that whole thing about damage limits? Read what Matt has to say:'The indemnification is not in any way limited to the amount of money a customer has paid Oracle. Apparently, Oracle's legal department missed the memo on this one. If you read Section J of the agreement (Limitation of Liability), you'll note that while Oracle offers unlimited indemnification for consequential damages related to an infringement claim (and that only for the one package, the Linux kernel), it caps all other damages at the amount you pay to Oracle.'
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A Closer Look At Oracle's (Legal) Linux

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  • by bogaboga (793279) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:29AM (#16915000)
    ...you'll note that while Oracle offers unlimited indemnification for consequential damages related to an infringement claim (and that only for the one package, the Linux kernel)...

    Sounds reasonable to me!

  • What bits in the Linux kernel does Larry think violates someones patent.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:34AM (#16915076) Homepage
    I'm done with it all. If my linux is "illegal" then I might as well pirate the hell out of all software and share it with everyone I know. IP law is stupid and broken if linux is illegal.

    Who cares about Oracle linux. Redhat AS is damn good, Centos is a great free copy, and Ubuntu and the others are awesome for home/tinker/easy to use... How can they come so late to the game and even get near what redhat and Debian have done?
    • Your .sig (Score:5, Informative)

      by Salsaman (141471) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:37AM (#16915104) Homepage
      Tired of waiting for working video editing in linux.....

      Your wait is over. [sourceforge.net]

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Curunir_wolf (588405)
        You're kidding, right? Lives is the biggest PITA for editing video that I've ever seen. A single DV tape is about 18GB of space. I don't know if Lives can load up the whole thing or not, but after a couple of hours of waiting on my AMDX2/ATI X1600 box I gave up. Pick a few 2-3 minute clips and you can throw something together suitable for youtube - anything more ambitious and you might as well forget it. Cinelerra is a better option, but it has almost as many broken features as lives. Don't even get m
        • by Salsaman (141471)
          That's because you are doing things backwards. Sounds like you are loading in a whole hour of dv and then cutting it.

          In LiVES, it is better to cut your scenes first using the shuttle controls/dvgrab, and then load in each scene as a separate clip. You can then fine tune the clips, and bring them together in the multitrack window.

      • LiVES...Lives is a Video Editing System...gotta love the reentrant anacronyms!

        Thanks for the link.
    • by AlanS2002 (580378) <sanderal2NO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:54AM (#16915422) Homepage
      If IP laws had existed when the weel was invented we probably wouldn't have motor cars now.
    • by kormoc (122955)
      Who cares about Oracle linux. Redhat AS is damn good, Centos is a great free copy, and Ubuntu and the others are awesome for home/tinker/easy to use... How can they come so late to the game and even get near what redhat and Debian have done?

      Wait a minute... This is Oracle, and you seem to think it's going for the home user. They're doing it for their customers. If everyone who runs Oracle runs Oracle linux, well, their consultants have a lot easier time setting things up, and all that jazz. It's not ment fo
    • by Ksempac (934247)

      How can they come so late to the game and even get near what redhat and Debian have done?

      Just a friendly reminder to show you how wrong you are :

      What is the n1 linux distribution right now ? Ubuntu
      When was Ubuntu launched ? October 20, 2004 (although we can say it really started to get some audience after v4 in 2005)

      So Ubuntu is fairly new, yet it achieved a great popularity. They did so by adding something new to a common Linux distribution (Debian). So if Oracle manages to add something new (or off

    • by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:45PM (#16916354)
      Tired of waiting for working video editing in linux.....

      What have you done to shorten the wait?

      • by odujosh (967823)
        Tired of waiting for working video editing in linux.....
        What have you done to shorten the wait?

        Moved to a real operating system. Not a pile of random junk that is Linux today. Its the old why build a crappy car when I can buy a nice one.

        Stupid troll:P
        • by redcane (604255)
          Because you can build a "crappy" car without the ethical implications of a bought one. See Home built electric vehicle versus pollution spewing bought one.
      • by rynoski (682205)

        What have you done to shorten the wait?

        How do you know he hasn't done anything?
        How do you know he hasn't started coding a video editor, but jus had trouble getting it working.
        How do you know that he hasn't contributed to one of the projects out there, but doesn't consider it up to his standards yet.
        Such as profesionals who need CYMK and need a linux replacement for photoshop. People say the GIMP is good enough all the time, photoshop is a photo editor, you can't claim GMIP is when it can't even split th

        • How do you know he hasn't done anything? How do you know he hasn't started coding a video editor, but jus had trouble getting it working. How do you know that he hasn't contributed to one of the projects out there, but doesn't consider it up to his standards yet.

          I do not know because he has not told us. That is why I asked.

          Such as profesionals who need CYMK and need a linux replacement for photoshop. People say the GIMP is good enough all the time, photoshop is a photo editor, you can't claim GMIP is

  • So much for that! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by EricJ2190 (1016652)
    One of the things I liked about Linux was the fact that it did not have so many legal issues.
  • by Werrismys (764601) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:40AM (#16915164)
    "Legal Linux?" F**k this shit.

    I'll start distributing "Vista - The Non Child Molester version". All the other Vista versions are pedobear-approved.

  • by EvilRyry (1025309) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:41AM (#16915174) Journal
    "We take responsibility for any and all damages that could possibly happen as a result of any bug in our products. For example, you can sue us into the ground because a kernel bug ate your multi-billion dollar document or allowed an intruder in who stole trade secrets. " With love, EvilRyry Enterprise Linux Systems, Inc. Honestly, what do you expect. Any company will take pretty limited responsibility for their product, not just oracle. Even a small bug could be the death of the company. MS for example takes no responsibility for just about anything that could happen with their products.
    • So you don't (Score:4, Interesting)

      by novus ordo (843883) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:21PM (#16915952) Journal
      This is not indemnity against bugs. This is indemnity against patent issues.

      MS for example takes no responsibility for just about anything that could happen with their products.
      From an IP perspective, seems that they do [microsoft.com]. And it also seems pretty extensive. From here [itjungle.com]:
      It is also now providing OEM system builders with protection for the four major forms of disputes commonly associated with software, which are patent, copyright, trade secret, and trademark.
      Apparently this is nothing new in the arena. Companies use shady patent laws to create 'protection' rackets providing insurance. I guess this is to protect from patent trolls by pooling a lot of patents in one lot. Most companies cross-license patents instead of litigation making an even bigger pool(see IBM). Ironic considering what patents were designed to do, don't you think?
  • Reversal. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lethyos (408045) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:43AM (#16915208) Journal

    How is it not obvious to, well, everyone that this is a bunch of nonsense? Why is open source software more likely to contain stolen code than any product from Microsoft or Oracle or any other proprietary vendor? (It is not, of course, because it is easy to find.) Like most matters of “intellectual property” the reasoning is totally inverted. We should have indemification licenses for closed source software, not open.

    • Re:Reversal. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jerf (17166) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:06PM (#16915680) Journal
      Why is open source software more likely to contain stolen code than any product from Microsoft or Oracle or any other proprietary vendor?
      Don't be confused; this isn't really about stolen code or violated patents.

      They're not doing this because they truly think Open Source is a festering pile of stolen code; if they did, they'd be suing. How to determine motivation from actions [jerf.org]: The question is not whether motivation A "explains" action B, the question is whether given motivation A, is action B the best action? Given the belief that open source has a lot of stolen code, the "best action" would be a lawsuit blitz. Since they aren't doing that and are just trying to sow FUD, my conclusion is they do not believe that open source has a lot of stolen code. The motivation that matches is that they want to hobble open source; in that case, this is [what they believe is] their best action.

      Business IT may not always be the most tech savvy people, but they are business savvy; this is going to work for a while but you can only talk about vague patent violations for so long before they notice that if they were real you'd be actually suing. That makes this a fairly pathetic attack; eventually everybody is going to see through it and they'll have spent real credibility on this last-ditch effort.

      This is coming up because as pathetic as it is for that reason, it's the best attack they've got. RMS deserves some props for this, and anyone else who helped design and promote the copy-left ideal; it's a brilliant judo-flip on the copyright system. They can't invalidate Open Source licensing without also taking out their own licensing practices.

      (Which is also why you see so many people trying to invalidate it on the grounds that they didn't have to pay money for it, as it, too, is the only available legal attack, and it doesn't work, because even if it works it doesn't mean GPL software is "public domain" in the full legal sense, it means it's a copyrighted work you have now no rights to possess or distribute. Oops.)

      It's not about stolen code, it's about trying to find some way, any way to slow down open source. ("Stopping" it is almost certainly an unrealistic goal and I doubt they are really trying that, as I think in that case "best action" swings back to "lawsuit flurry", in the desperate hope that maybe they can win something important.)
  • Indemnification (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kevin_conaway (585204) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:47AM (#16915276) Homepage

    Let me preface this by saying I have no idea what I'm talking about and this is all guesswork. Then again, this is Slashdot..anyways:

    Looking back at a previous [slashdot.org] story [infoworld.com], they mention:

    Oracle will offer its Linux support customers full indemnification from intellectual property lawsuits, like the ones filed by SCO.

    Weren't most of the SCO lawsuits stating that only the Linux kernel contained their IP? Perhaps this is what Oracle had in mind when only offering to cover the kernel for purposes of indemnification.

    Either way, I'm not very knowledgeable on the topic, but the linked article came off as kind of nitpicking

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      the linked article came off as kind of nitpicking

      The guy is analysing a legal agreement, in particular its Limitation of Liability section. Nitpicking is required and, in fact, is the important thing.

  • by dustwun (662589) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:52AM (#16915354) Homepage
    At some point oracle should take a look at their own legal standpoint and community reputation (if Larry Ellison cares about that).
    Some basic facts for people to be aware of:
    1. Dubious rebuild practices: They seem to be using centos as a buffer to Red Hat. See http://oss.oracle.com/linux/legal/oracle-list.html [oracle.com] and search for centos. If you really want to have some fun, grab the centos source, and start matching the typos in the centos patches against the 'oracle developed' patches in their source.
    2. Dozens of bloggers and community members are already calling it a failure. see the following for your current opinion: http://ultramookie.com/wayback/2006/10/26/uncompat ible-linux/ [ultramookie.com] http://ultramookie.com/wayback/2006/10/29/do-it-ri ght-oracle/ [ultramookie.com] and http://thebs413.blogspot.com/2006/10/oracle-lookin g-past-ellisons-rhetoric.html [blogspot.com]

    Oracle seems to be walking a very fine line with overall compliance with the GPL. They have taken some patches from centos and removed the user attribution.

    Personally, CentOS http://www.centos.org/ [centos.org] has already proven to be a top notch alternative to RHEL, and while there's no indemnification, it works far better than oracle linux seems to at this point, and they provide more community support than oracle seems to want to.
    • There's really not a fine line. If they're actually removing author attributions, they are in full-blown violation of the license. It may be overlooked by some, but if they did it on purpose and continue to do it, Eben Moglen, RMS, and those authors themselves certainly won't overlook it for long.

      • by jedidiah (1196)
        You are confused.

        This is GPL code, not BSD code.

        They can remove ANYTHNG THEY DAMN WELL PLEASE because that is what the GPL license allows for. Their only requirement is that they release the source of their derivative work to anyone who recieves the binary version of same. If the source is available such that you can whine about something like this than they are in compliance with the license that the code is actually released under.
        • by Pharmboy (216950)
          "Free as in speech" [gnu.org] doesn't mean you are not obligated to give credit where it is due.
        • Nonsense. It allows unlimited modification of the code, but it also REQUIRES inclusion of a copyright notice by the author--so no, they can't just remove those attributions and remain in compliance.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Kjella (173770)
          They can remove ANYTHNG THEY DAMN WELL PLEASE because that is what the GPL license allows for.

          Any of the source. Removing any part of the license or the license grant means that this user's contribution is no longer licensed, period. Every person who contributes to a GPL'd file is making a derivative work and has joint copyright on the derivative version. They must be identified and also grant a license under the GPL. In fact, removing copyright notices is itself a criminal offense under copyright law. And
        • You are the one confused in this matter.

          Read the damn license that I've been writing code under for ten years. I'll tell you this: if you remove my attribution from any of my GPLed code, expect a summons.

          I've allowed a couple of project maintainers, with my permission, to place my code under the project's ownership and copyright with just a notice of thanks to me. That was my choice, and it was determined by the project maintainer and myself to be better for the projects involved. I do not give anyone free
          • by jedidiah (1196)
            I have. The only thing that you can't modify is the license itself.

            EVERYTHING else is fair game.

            If you are attempting to "hack" the license then that's a GPL violation of it's own. The original BSDL was considered GPL-incompatible because of this sort of restriction.

            Some personal private license you may have cooked up is of no relevance here.
            • The attributions are not part of the code. They are part of the copyright, and hence part of the basis for the license to be operable.

              Unless you are a troll or a complete idiot, you cannot really support the idea that a license that is built on copyright can support the undermining of that copyright and continue to function.
    • At some point oracle should take a look at their own legal standpoint and community reputation (if Larry Ellison cares about that).

      He doesn't.

      Dozens of bloggers and community members are already calling it a failure

      He also doesn't care about what people named Mookie or BS think, either. Whether it's a failure or not will come out on Oracle's next quarterly report, or maybe a few after that; you can't rule out the possibility that this is a loss-leader aimed at expanding Oracle market share. Every dollar t
  • Ah! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday November 20, 2006 @11:56AM (#16915476)
    > If you read Section J of the agreement (Limitation of Liability), you'll note that while Oracle offers unlimited indemnification for consequential damages related to an infringement claim (and that only for the one package, the Linux kernel), it caps all other damages at the amount you pay to Oracle.

    Then I have exactly the amount of indemnification I need.
  • by bobs666 (146801) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:26PM (#16916040)
    Last Week I was trying to install a mod into Oracle's 10g web server.
    running apxs was hope less. The version of perl that Oracle shipped
    included libraries that did not exist. How good is it that "use strict"
    would not load, And after switching that perl , oracles apxs wanted
    to load *.o files that Oracle did not ship. In effect Oracle's version
    of Apache will only work with software shipped by Oracle. And
    the perl software and libraries shipped by Oracle are useless.
    I have to ask my self why Oracle shipped them in the first place.

    When they do that to a Linux distro I expect a computer that can only
    run Oracle software. How useless will that be?

    • by afidel (530433)
      I think that's EXACTLY the point of their linux distro. It's supposed to be as lean as possible to run their software and all of the code used should be tested with their software. As an enterprise customer I won't be loading a my-little-pony fansite onto the Apache instance of my Oracle DB Server. In fact I would prefer that it not be running Apache at all! What I want is a lean Linux based bootloader for Oracle that will support my HBA and NIC drivers, and if needed a shim for my backup software. Oracle t
  • by GodWasAnAlien (206300) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:43PM (#16916326)
    Open source indemnification is FUD that was started by SCO.

    As an individual, you will not be sued for using Linux.

    If you are a mega company, and you resell Linux, perhaps someone will lodge a "trivial patent" lawsuit or other lawsuit at you.
    But that could happen with other software that you re-license. And that's what the lawyers are for. And hopefully patent laws get fixed someday.
  • Oracle is 2 years late to the linux kernel patent audit games.

    OSRM released a study [osriskmanagement.com] that showed there were no high risk patent problems with the kernel. Oracle has just seemingly taken the results of that study and made some wild PR statements.

    Thanks but no thanks. I'll stick with Red Hat.

  • When I saw that, (legal), i was like, first of all it's suggesting that other linux is illegal, plus of course it's legal because Oracle has money. It doesn't matter what you do, whether it's legal or not depends on whether you can back it up with lawyers or weapons. What a nice world we live in.
  • So, does this mean I can download the latest version of Maya and not have to worry about corporate lawyers? Sweeet....
  • How could Oracle, or any responsible company, indemnify anything BUT the core engine of an OSS project? The rest of it is an agglomeration of smaller inputs from enthusiast programmers, most of whom are untraceable anyway. If one uses FireFoxm as an example, the 'community' is the product's worst enemy to begin with.

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