26 May 2004 Software developers that add code to Linux will have to personally sign off on their contributions under a new initiative backed by Linus Torvalds, the creator of the open source operating system.
The scheme, launched this week by Torvalds and the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), an industry alliance, is designed to remove doubts about the origin of Linux code that have dogged the operating system and many of its corporate users over the last 12 months.
By providing an audit trail of contributions, the OSDL hopes to prevent further claims that Linux might contain plagiarised code.
The move comes as Unix company SCO continues its legal fight with IBM and a number of Linux users over claims that Linux contains some of its intellectual property.
Stuart Cohen, CEO of OSDL, said in a joint statement with Torvalds that the initiative “goes a long way toward eliminating doubt surrounding the origin of Linux code.”
Cohen described the development as a response to customer demand for a clearer legal picture rather than to any particular lawsuits.
Contributors to Linux will have to sign an agreement called a Developer’s Certificate of Origin (DCO).
Torvalds stressed that there were no flaws or weaknesses in the Linux development system. He described the DCO as adding a trail of documentation to the Linux community principles of peer review and personal responsibility.
The DCO will apply only to the Linux kernel and will have no impact on the thousands of open source applications designed to run on Linux.
The OSDL, founded by HP, Intel, IBM and NEC in 2000, is dedicated to accelerating the growth and adoption of Linux in the enterprise.