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Is Oracle having done unto it what it done unto Red Hat?

Without any more fanfare than is given to any standard press release, Oracle reported yesterday on some of its users’ experience with Unbreakable Linux. Given that Oracle sued SAP for “corporate theft on a grand scale” last week, it’s interesting to note some similarities — and some differences.

Oracle – SAP Red Hat – Oracle
Who took from whom? SAP’s subsidiary TomorrowNow took from Oracle, according to the suit Oracle took from Red Hat, according to Oracle
What’d they take? Support materials An OS and publicly available support materials
Was it allowed? No, says Oracle. Maybe, says an analyst. Yes — open source
End result? Support for Oracle at half the cost Support for Red Hat at half the cost
Why’d they do it? To undercut a competitor To undercut a competitor
Reaction? A lawsuit No lawsuit

Of course, open source is open source, and proprietary information is proprietary. And Oracle may get a court to agree that when TomorrowNow allegedly downloaded support information for one client and used the same information to support others it was “stealing software products and other confidential materials that Oracle developed to service its own support customers.” Or the court could decide that proprietary information — once legitimately paid for by a customer and used by a VAR to support that customer — can be used for other purposes with no further obligation to the original owner. And that’s assuming the case even makes it to court — Oracle and SAP could settle, instead.
IP arguments are complicated, and VARs involved in this kind of support could be culpable to the vendor who supplied the software and the documentation. So the difference between open and closed is no joke.

But it’s interesting to note the parallels, nevertheless.

Yuval Shavit

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