December 18, 2000

Weekly news wrapup: BT says, 'We own hyperlinks and we're gonna sue'

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross-

Many in the Open Source community have objected loudly to the sad state of patent law during the last couple of years, as technology companies continue to make dubious patent claims. British Telecom has made noise for months that it owns the patent on hyperlinks, but this week, the company acted on that claim by filing a lawsuit against Internet service provider Prodigy in U.S. court.

British Telecom is apparently seeking fees from anyone who uses hyperlinks. Indeed, it has a patent on a hyperlink-like way of jumping from text page to text page. However, the Linux Journal, in an open letter to Prodigy's CEO does a good job of debunking BT's claim that it invented the hyperlink. "Don't give the bastards an inch, and you'll get all the help you need," writes Don Marti, the Journal's technical editor.

On to legal news of a more happy note: The U.S. motion picture industry hit a roadblock in its lawsuit over the DeCSS case. That's the case in which the industry is suing a bunch of people for distributing the code that allows DVDs to run on Linux. A California court this week told the motion picture lawyers to prove why a defendant who doesn't live in California should be part of the case. Hey, sometimes you have to celebrate small victories.

Selling Linux, in more ways that one

Enough legal news. In the *much* more fascinating world of the stock market, Linux heavyweight Red Hat announced this week that revenues had jumped 112 percent from the third quarter of 1999 to Q3 2000. The company is still losing money, it's worth noting, but, hey, it lost less than $1 million during the quarter. Red Hat big-wigs said they're confident they'll be making money by 2002.

Corel, the quasi-Linux company that's now in bed with Microsoft continued to be a victim of rumors that it is selling off its Linux arm. One report this week went so far as to say the sale was "nearly a done deal." But Corel said, "Not so fast."

Opposites attract?

The last couple of weeks have produced
their share of stories
about whether the big tech companies will co-opt Linux. One of the stranger stories asked, "Can Linux save Microsoft?" The column suggested Microsoft might take over the Open Source movement the way it took over the browser business. Hmmmm, I search for the right analogy. That'd kind of be like Satan setting up shop in heaven, maybe? How do you co-opt something that's your exact opposite?

While you may laugh at that column, Intel's announcement that its Pentium 4 chips will at first run only the Red Hat and TurboLinux flavors of Linux caused some consternation among Linux fans this week. But it's only a temporary problem, and the rest of us can try Transmeta products in the meantime.

New in NewsForge

Freelancer Eric Ries provides a second sneak preview of version 3 of the GNU General Public License.

Business columnist Jack Bryar says telecom companies have the best chance of turning a profit among Open Source companies.

News editor Tina Gasperson surveys Linux users about the reasons they use the operating system. For some users, it's philosophical. For others, the "free" in free software is forever linked to beer.

NewsForge editors read and respond to comments posted on our discussion page.

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