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by Franki

I’ve been reading allot recently on the SCO/IBM legal debate about whether IBM is responsible for putting SCO proprietary code into Linux. (I should add that it hasn’t been proven yet that any proprietary code has been included in Linux because any time SCO reveal something they claim as illegal code, its found to have been released as open source by SCO themselves or one of the previous Unix owners.)

Apart from my personal belief that SCO will have to pry my wallet from my cold dead fingers before they get a Linux license from me, I figured I’d point out some interesting details that most people seem to miss.

1. SCO themselves were not only a Linux vendor, they were once a big contributor to the Linux kernels code…. so their statement that they didn’t know they were violating their own IP (by distributing Linux under the GPL themselves) is hard to backup, since they had guys who’s job it was to work on many aspects of the Linux kernel itself. In fact, they continued distributing Linux under the GPL after they started litigation with IBM.

2. The name Unix itself, doesn’t even belong to SCO. It belongs to The open group.
The only thing SCO can argue about is the actual code that made up “Unix” namely System V UNIX.

3. Vast amounts of Unix source code has been in public domain for almost 30 years, in fact it was often taught at universities to budding programmers on how to build an operating system. Also all the previous Unix “owners” including SCO itself, has released parts of the Unix source as open source to anyone that was interested in it. So I am not sure how they can class it as any sort of trade secret.

4. They claim that any “derivative” code created by companies that have access to UNIX source code has some ownership rights passed though to SCO, and that to create a totally “clean” Linux that has no ownership problems with SCO would require writing in a closed room with people totally unfamiliar with the UNIX source code. In other words, if you went to uni for your programming knowledge in the past 30 years, your out of luck.

5. Novell paid 800 million dollars when they purchased Unix, and what they sold to SCO they sold for 100 million. SCO contends that what they purchased was essentially the same thing that Novell purchased. Novell contends that what they sold SCO was not everything that Novell purchased back when they bought Unix (the price in both sales seems to back up Novells case). . Novell says that basically all existing licences that were around when the Novell->SCO sale went though are still legally controlled by Novell, and that SCO was to act as administrator to those licenses for a fee and any monies after that fee goes back to Novel. SCO has been performing that particular task since they bought Unix. There is also some question about copyright ownership in this case as well.

6. SCO has claimed that it needs IBM’s AIX source code to determine what illegal code was copied, and yet also says that it has cleared both HP and Sun (two other UNIX licensee’s) of any code violations.. and it cleared both of them without seeing any HP-UX or Solaris source code. How is that possible?

7. When the court compelled SCO to provide source code to IBM, it delivered about 1 million pages of text on paper, the code in question.. instead of providing an electronic copy which is all IBM wanted. I can only hope that if IBM provides SCO with AIX source code, they provide a paper copy as well. (being on paper means it can’t be electronically searched and compiled)

8. Years back there was a legal battle between Berkley university and AT&T about the same thing.. it was settled out of court when it became obvious that there wasn’t much chance of getting anywhere with the case. (It was about whether BSD UNIX contained copyright code from AT&T’s Unix.. ) And from BSD’s code came OpenBSD, NETBSD and FreeBSD. (all of which are kissing cousins of Linux) and its even said that allot of BSD networking code ended up in Windows over the years.

9. It has been said recently that the US government is looking into a possible improper relationship between Micro$oft and SCO, Micro$oft would be one of the big winners if the SCO case turned out to have any merit and they are probably partially winning now because of all the press the SCO/IBM Linux case is getting. SCO recently received funding to the tune of about 50 million dollars and tracing that money back to its original owner has become something of great interest to a good many people. (Seen the update note below for a very interesting tidbit about this.)
halloweenX is about a letter leaked from SCO that seems to be indicating that Micro$oft has been behind much of SCO’s funds. SCO admitted the email is real, but has been misconstrued, and Micro$oft as said it was “inaccurate”, but neither one denied it outright.. (which one would reasonably expect them to do were it not true.)

10. SCO has been sending all sorts of legal threats to Linux users and companies around the world, basically demanding that they be paid a license for each Linux box the user or company has installed, even though their allegations have not yet been proven. (and probably never will be). I don’t remember anything in the license they provide that suggests a refund if their claims are found without merit. So my advice is… don’t buy an SCO license till a court tells you you need one, because its quite likely you never will. I should point out somewhere that SCO themselves still utilise and supply open source software.. like Samba, so on the one hand, they demand money from open source Linux users, and on the other hand, they allow people to utilise open source software on their own UNIX products (in fact they supply it) thereby increasing the “value” and “usability” of their own proprietary Unix offerings. Hardly seems fair does it.

11. SCO contends that Linux has been undermining sales of SCO’s UNIX products and using Unix source code to do it, also they claim that Linux could not have achieved the performance levels it has without the illegal Unix code they claim IBM put in it.. However, it should be noted that Linux has outperformed SCO UNIX in pretty much every area for years, in fact it outperformed SCO Unix long before IBM was even involved with Linux. SCO also tells anyone that will listen that Mcdonalds uses an SCO Unix product in all their cash registers. It should also be pointed out that this particular Unix type product is not the same Unix that SCO contends was partially included in Linux, the Unix that Mcdonalds uses in its case registers is an extremely old code base that originally came from Microsoft before they started down the Windows road. (It should be noted that this version of UNIX is not useful for anything other then simple operations like cash registers.) SCO’s UnixWare product has been outperformed by all the other UNIX variants still around and for some time now by both Linux and *BSD as well. So this is NOT a cutting edge product we are talking about here, its an ancient codebase that is hopelessly outdated in comparison to modern variants.

12. SCO has done this all before. Several years ago, Caldera (now SCO) bought the rights to Digital Research Dos (DrDOS), it then immediately took Micro$oft to court and got a big settlement from M$ to make the case go away. It seems that this easy revenue was attractive to SCO as they have just done essentially the same thing with Unix and IBM. It’s ironic that they are suing IBM about an operating system that SCO themselves not only helped create, but also profited from. (by selling a Linux distro under the Caldera name.)

Anyway, I could say a ton more, but I think the above is a pretty good indication of what my opinion is on the case at hand.

I have written all of this, because in my opinion SCO’s case requires that they convince a jury of non technical ordinary people that their interpretation of the Novel/SCO Unix sale is the right one, and that their press manipulation and misinformation/FUD releases are apparently designed to convince this jury that they have some merit to their case. In other words, if the “real” word doesn’t get out, all the uninformed will have to go on, will be SCO’s word. I don’t think they will be successful, but figure I should do my part in giving people the “other side” of the story.

In short, SCO purchased an extremely old code base for allot less then what Novell paid for it. (which kinda explains why Novell contend they didn’t sell SCO everything) and SCO is losing market share to Linux.. The answer for them was simple, sue Linux supporters and vendors because its easier then making a competitive product.

Baystar, one of SCO’s investors has asked for their 20 million back and they also admitted that it was Micro$oft executives that approached them and suggested the investment. Since the news came out, SCO stock has dropped dramatically.
The Salt Lake Tribune SCO/Baystar report.
BusinessWeek report on Micro$oft’s involvement.

Read up at the following sites for some general info on the IBM/SCO/Linux saga, it makes for interesting reading. Google is the best link for that because its been covered thousands of times now.
SCO press release legal news on the case.
Google, this case has been covered hundreds of times..

Lastly, it might be worth considering the implications if SCO manage to convince the jury it is correct, here are a few of the possible implications.
– Google, everyone’s favourite search, will either have to change drastically, or close altogether, as they run a huge Linux server farm to provide the service.
– Big movies.. movies like Titanic, Lord of the Rings and many others make use of Linux render farms to do their expansive 3d rendering.. it will be considerably more expensive to do this if SCO ends up having legal rights to 599 dollar USD per unit licences.
– Web hosting.. there are a ton of really cheap web hosts around at the moment and most of them are based on Linux, if SCO wins, most of them will close and the rest will become much more expensive.
– Western countries will pay, others may not.. Can you imagine SCO trying to impose licenses on countries like China? it won’t happen and SCO are unlikely to try, so we’d have a case where we are the only ones paying.
– Devices using embedded Linux like routers, set top boxes, mobile phones and PDA’s will become more expensive. Since embedded Linux is forcing the competition to lower its own pricing accordingly, the competition will get more expensive as well.
– As with embedded, if there is no competition to windows, you can expect price rises from Micro$soft for future versions as well, because people won’t really have any choice in the market.
– OSX, Mac users might be in trouble also as SCO have intimated that they might go after BSD of their Linux bid is successful, and OSX is a derivative of FreeBSD.
– Linux is one of the big forces that push open source development, if Linux goes, so will allot of the incentive for open source works.. so it will hurt even those that don’t use Linux but have benefited from other open source apps.

Just some things to keep in mind while considering this case.



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