Red Hat has delayed the launch of its non-profit, independent Fedora project while it sorts out some legal paperwork.

Speaking at the Linuxworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, Mark Webbink, deputy general counsel at Red Hat, said the company has not applied for the licence it needs to establish the Fedora Foundation as a non-profit because the company wanted to make sure it had the proper legislation for the group drawn up first.

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

Now it looks like the foundation will be set up by mid-September, Webbink said. 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 non-profit designation]," said Webbink. "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 non-profit 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 that includes up-and-coming features that are intended to be a part of forthcoming versions of RHEL. However, unlike with Red Hat's commercial products, users are free to make as many copies of Fedora as they want without having to pay for support licences.

Red Hat has been criticised 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.

Webbink 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 provide 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."