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Four years ago, when Diane Peters moved to Portland, Oregon, the Open Source Development Lab was a little-known tech support shop. Scruffy Linux programmers test-drove their work on the lab’s computers. But as open-source software increasingly spread beyond the world of enthusiasts and into large corporations, the OSDL has morphed into something new. In the past year, Linux has been battered by intellectual property challenges, and the lab has expanded its charter to include legal and political work. In August, the organization hired Peters as its first-ever general counsel. In a statement announcing the appointment, Stuart Cohen, CEO of the OSDL, said, “We [created] the new role … of general counsel to help us take a leadership role in addressing many of the legal challenges facing Linux.” If she does her job well, Peters, 40, could win the devotion of thousands. Last year a Utah-based company, The SCO, Inc., sued International Business Machines Corporation, alleging that its version of Linux infringed upon SCO’s proprietary code. The suit, and others filed or threatened by SCO, threw the legitimacy — and commercial viability — of Linux into question. An August study by the Open Source Risk Management group (a New York�based organization that sells insurance to companies using Linux) found that the current, widely used version of Linux potentially infringes upon 283 patents, including 27 held by Microsoft Corporation. In this climate, many open source programmers have been looking for a talented lawyer to battle potential litigants. Peters, who has worked everywhere from Hollywood to Argentina, wanted to be that lawyer. A partner with Portland’s Ater Wynne, she had an edge, having served as outside counsel for OSDL. To get the job, she first had to meet with Linus Torvalds, the originator of Linux and patron saint of the open source community. The two talked over coffee at a Portland caf�, and she says: “I won his blessing.”

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