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Microsoft has been beating the drum for quite a while now about how much safer its intellectual property foundation is compared with scary, scary Linux.

Oh, please. Even Open Source Risk Management‘s Dan Ravicher, the guy who wrote up the Linux patent study showing that Linux “potentially” violated 283 software patents, thinks “Microsoft is up to its usual FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt].” And, “Open source faces no more, if not less, legal risk than proprietary software.”

That’s an especially interesting point now, since Microsoft just announced that it feels it’s necessary to offer IP indemnification to its larger OEMs and smaller OEM System Builder partners, as well as its OEM distributors and ISV Royalty partners.

Click here to read more about Microsoft’s move to protect its OEM and ISV Royalty partners from the legal costs of IP-violation lawsuits.

Could it be that, contrary to what The Yankee Group sees as an open-source indemnification nightmare, Microsoft has woken up and realized that stirring up IP concerns has made making and selling software more costly and legally troublesome for everyone?

See what supporting SCO in its Linux lawsuit gets you?

Linux is more popular than ever, and now Microsoft and its partners have to contend with a more litigious software world as well.

No wonder Microsoft is trying to make nice with the open-source community—the boys from Redmond now know that all software vendors are in the same hot water.

Can the open-source community trust Microsoft? Click here to read why Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols says no.

Mind you, I think it’s a good thing that Microsoft is offering indemnification to its partners in this environment. But I also think that it’s terribly ironic that Microsoft’s own attempts to spread FUD about open source have rebounded back at them.

I can’t take too much schadenfreude from Microsoft’s troubles though.

The current IP environment hurts everyone—Microsoft, Red Hat, Novell, HP—everyone. Open source, closed source, it doesn’t really matter.

Don’t think the buck stops with the vendors, though. It doesn’t. Someone has to pay for those indemnification programs, and that someone is likely to be you, the end user, with higher list prices and additional contract charges.

Lucky us. Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late ’80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way. He can be reached at

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