Fedora Foundation Delayed

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The establishment of Red Hat's Fedora project as an independent, nonprofit organization has stalled because of administrative delays, an executive from the Linux distribution vendor said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Linuxworld Conference & Expo here, Mark Webbink, deputy general counsel at Red Hat, said the company has not applied for the 501(c)(3) license it needs to establish the Fedora Foundation as a nonprofit because the company wanted to make sure it had the proper legislation for the group drawn up first.

Boosting Open Source

When the company announced the launch of the foundation in June, Webbink said Red Hat would have it up and running as a nonprofit by mid-August.

Now it looks like the foundation will be set up by mid-September, Webbink said in an interview. Submitting the legal paperwork and drafting the bylaws for the foundation has simply taken longer than expected, he said.

"We have not applied yet [for the nonprofit designation]," Webbink said Tuesday at a press conference at Linuxworld. "We wanted to make sure we had the bylaws done."

He added that Red Hat also wanted to ensure that it had the right processes in place to obtain the nonprofit designation to avoid making any mistakes that might further delay the application.

Red Hat set up the Fedora Foundation to oversee and encourage participation in its Fedora open-source project. Fedora is an alternative to the company's Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) product, which includes features that are intended to also be part of forthcoming versions of RHEL. However, unlike Red Hat's commercial products, users can make as many copies of Fedora as they want without having to pay for support licenses.

Red Hat has been criticized in the past for exerting too much control over Fedora, which is primarily maintained by Red Hat engineers. The creation of the Fedora Foundation seems to be an attempt by the company to mitigate this kind of criticism.

Webbink said that Red Hat engineers currently working on Fedora now will remain on the project as active participants in the foundation, but reiterated that Red Hat itself will not govern the group. Bylaws for the foundation have already been drafted, and Red Hat is in the process of choosing board members now, he said.

Rival Foundations

Webbink Tuesday also outlined other specific foundation responsibilities. The group will handle code and financial contributions to the Fedora distribution; increase the number of engineers contributing code to Fedora; and give financial, administrative, and technical support to Fedora users, he said.

In addition, the Fedora Foundation will act as a repository for copyright and patent assignment for technology contributed to the project, though Red Hat will continue to seek and apply for its own patents for technology in its own Linux distribution, Webbink said.

As of this week, Red Hat isn't the only major Linux vendor to offer a free, open-source version of its commercial distribution. Novell Suse Linux this week unveiled its OpenSuse project, which gives users and developers an open source version of the Suse Linux distribution.

Webbink said Red Hat is "flattered" by Novell's apparent move to emulate Red Hat's Fedora project, and said the move should prove beneficial to both the Linux community and to Red Hat.

"We're glad to see Novell embracing the open source side of their personality," Webbink said. "We think it broadens the support for open source projects. We never thought being the only player in open source [was a good thing]. Lack of competition tends to make one not in tune with your customer space."

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