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'We Now Definitively Own Unix & UnixWare Copyrights,' Says SCO

Everything's been registered now at the US Patent & Trademark Office

(July 21, 2003) - According to industry veteran Maureen O’Gara, whose weekly LinuxGram is distributed every Friday by Linux Business Week, the SCO Group is now saying that the US Patent and Trademark Office registered all the Unix and UnixWare copyrights that AT&T's Unix System Labs ever owned in SCO's name last week, “dispelling any lingering doubts,” as O’Gara puts it, “that SCO does in fact own them.”

According to O’Gara, now that that SCO has accomplished that, its CEO Darl McBride will start using the copyrights “to bring Linux users to the negotiating table to work out licenses.”

“SCO is going to start with the Global 1500 that it sent warning letters to a few weeks ago as well as government entities leaning towards or already embracing Linux,” she writes, adding: ”Ironically, SCO has been taunted and dismissed by such as Novell and Linux creator Linus Torvalds for not suing IBM on copyright grounds and hitting it instead with a $3 billion contract case.”

O’Gara quotes McBride as saying "Recovery comes down to the user. The legal issues are with the end users." In other words, his legal team has advised him that the end user, according to copyright law, is responsible for infringement. Whereas entities further up the food chain—such as consortia like the Open Source Development Lab, software distributors like Red Hat, and vendors like IBM—could only be nailed for “contributory infringement.”

These issues - the result of what McBride calls a "prima facie case of significant copyright infringement inside Linux" - could spiral into lawsuits, injunctions, and damages, he indicated, if the users don't come to book. Actually, he said, he'd prefer to avoid lawsuits, but SCO will do what it has to.

According to O’Gara, McBride says SCO doesn't have a formal licensing program in place yet and probably won't until mid-August when SCO Forum rolls around. His immediate plan is try "to work through the process with end users," then arrange to brief CIOs at the forum and maybe fly in SCO's high-profile litigator David Boies.

SCO evidently hasn't figured out yet exactly what the end-user licenses are going to cost, writes O’Gara, but she reports that McBride has confirmed that the price of UnixWare is the "benchmark" of the company's thinking. (UnixWare can run anywhere from $700 to several thousand dollars.)

The licenses will be for binary code, not source code, because of the GPL (General Public License), but O’Gara notes that McBride’s view is that the GPL is "on shaky ground" and needs "serious modifications." McBride told O’Gara that the users SCO has been talking to and showing code to for the last month and a half indicate they value a binary license. Apparently, according to SCO’s polls anyway, very few of them muck with source code.

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SYS-CON's Linux News Desk gathers stories, analysis, and information from around the Linux world and synthesizes them into an easy to digest format for IT/IS managers and other business decision-makers.

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Most Recent Comments
Concerned Citizen 03/02/04 11:32:00 AM EST

The proper way to proceed, is to refuse to pay SCO anything for Linux -- if everyone did that (from big companies all the way down to individuals), then they've spent their money on lawyers and regardless of the legal outcome, will not have any $$$ to show for it.

Georgi Georgiev 11/07/03 10:00:26 PM EST

I have a problem. I am investing in IT and always try no to let my feelings go. Though, SCO is so disgusting that I will gladly pay to see them fail. They apparently believe that they are entitled to a) stop the progress b) spread false or at least unproven alegations and c) fuck with the IT department of the corporations ....well I think they are going to get what they deserve, sure hope so!

Walt R. 09/07/03 03:11:07 PM EDT

SCO = Subterfuge, Convolution, and Obfuscation

ken drushal 09/07/03 11:50:44 AM EDT

another outfit w/ more sharks (lawyers) than real people!

Dean Kutryk 09/04/03 03:23:20 PM EDT

Personally I think that someone should go in there with a shotgun and end this fiaSCO.

Mick Mann 07/23/03 07:03:12 AM EDT

So.. McBride says that more users prefer Binary to Source Licence? So, I can hear the telcon now..
McBride: Yes, I'd like to know do you want licence the source at $500 or the binary at $110? Coz, I've got a lawsuit, and I own a few IPs so would you make up your mind?
Induh'vidial: Hmm.. screwed for 500 or 110? Ok, I think I prefer binary..
McBride Cool, I'll send over my army - er - I mean contract negotiators, and sign you up rightly.. you'll be a legal user in no time
Induh'vidial: Hey thanks. Oh, and what is it I'm buying again???

Tim Jung 07/22/03 05:13:37 PM EDT

I have a problem with what SCO is doing. I have bought and downloaded and used Caldera Linux in the past and recently from Caldera/SCO. So my question is do their customers need a license? If they don't and the product is GPLed then why does anyone need a license at all. If the product isn't GPL then I should be able to sue for "bait and switch" as well as misrepresentation of the product. I bought it, and it was suppose to be a GPLed Linux distribution. Also I should be able to sue for false advertisement since SCO/Caldera advertised a product that was suppose to be a GPLed Linux product with a few extra commercial programs and commercial support.

SCO can't say that everyone using Linux needs a license but their customers, because their customers are covered under their purchase and the GPL. If so then I can give my stuff away for free and SCO can't do anything about it. If not then I should sue SCO for lying to me both in the sale of the product and in the advertising of the product.

SCO can't have it both ways. They can't have their cake and eat it too. Either it was covered under the GPL and thus everyone should ignore SCO, or they are facing major lawsuits from all of their customers for misrepresentation of the product and out and out lying about the product.

Which is it?

Kevin Michel 07/22/03 04:56:51 PM EDT

I have been trying to think of some reasonable response to SCO. Something that sums up where I think their lawsuit and their claims fall in the IP debate and the future of systems software. The only response I can think of is....


Max Southall 07/22/03 04:52:30 PM EDT

For those who value safety in their positions above all else, the very safest course is to stop thinking about Linux, Unix or anything remotely related to that scarey SCO and simply pony up for a Microsoft lock in. In many stodgy executive suites, the key mantras are, "Don't make waves, keep your head down and keep the lid on." Competition, innovation, creativity and individual excellence are becoming passe as the nation succumbs to a fear-induced penchant for free-for-all legal greed-fests for the remains of a shrinking and increasingly out-sourced IT pie.

Craig Goodrich 07/22/03 04:02:39 PM EDT

Hmmm. "... the US Patent and Trademark Office registered all the Unix and UnixWare copyrights that AT&T's Unix System Labs ever owned ..."

One obvious question here is *what* copyrights did USL own? "Unix" is a trademark of The Open Group, the bits of SMP, NUMA, etc. contributed by IBM were copyrighted by Sequent (now owned by IBM), and most of the IP value of the rest of the code was destroyed by the AT&T/Berkeley lawsuit of a decade ago.

Not to mention, of course, that AT&T had stolen code from BSD (illegally replacing the BSD copyright with their own) in the mid-80s, and that Caldera itself worked to "integrate Unix and Linux", according to its own press releases, as recently as a year ago.

This is an utterly ridiculous attempt at blackmail. I have an image of a six-year-old thug-to-be saying to a large teenager, "Give me a quarter or I'll hit you." [pause] "C'mon, now, or I'll hit you hard." [louder] "I'm really gonna hurt you bad now if you don't give me the quarter..."


Dee-Ann LeBlanc 07/21/03 02:21:57 PM EDT

I've been maintaining silence on the SCO issue because I didn't want to give them any press whatsoever. The company reminds me of a child running around, doing everything possible to get in trouble, just for the attention. However, now the child is setting fires in my backyard and I'm starting to get a wee bit more annoyed.

I agree that I think they have no case, and are blustering to try to bilk as much money as possible from anyone that will pay up. I oersonally hope that IBM sues them out of existence.

Dan Bent 07/21/03 10:38:26 AM EDT

If the copyrights are new, when are they effective?
It seems to me that SCO is trying to close the henhouse door after the chickens have allegedly escaped. If the copyrights are new, then isn't the question of ownership during the period in question (1986 through the present if I'm reading correctly) still an open issue?

Conceding that SCO does legitimately hold copyrights on portions of the kernel code, isn't their a question about their diligence in enforcing their copyrights in a timely and consistent manner? It seems to me that if their copyrights are being violated, then they have been violated in a very public way for many years. Why is SCO just raising the question at this time, and have they lost the right to raise the issue because they did not address it sooner?

I continue to be of the opinion that this is a frivolous case that SCO is pursuing out of desperation. I think that the Linux community is so entrenched, and so resourceful that, even if the Justice Department fails to comprehend the issues and issue an appropriate ruling (as they have done rather consistently in other high profile technology cases), the community will react with a solution that does not infringe on any copyrights, but allows development to continue in an open environment.
I think SCO's real hope is that some large "end-user" firms will be cowed into settling. It will be interesting to follow this case as it develops.

James Turner 07/21/03 09:37:30 AM EDT

I used to think that the Church of Scientology represented the pinnacle of the leveraging of legal assets in the pursuit of evil. But I'm afraid they have company in the top tier now.

Top 3 questions:

1) Can Linux survive if SCO succeeds, because there's no way the developer community is going to toil selflessly to improve Linux, just to line SCO's pocket at $110/license. And there's no way SCO can maintain and improve Linux, being largely a shell company full of lawyers at this point.

2) Is there any question that the US Patent and Trademark Office needs to be cleaned out and refurbished from top to bottom, given the series of totally chuckleheaded decisions they've made over the past few years? This is clearly the Gang That Can't Shoot Straight.

3) Would you want the job of SCO's network security administrator, given the amount of ill will they're generating among a group of people well versed in the vulnerabilities of servers?

James Turner
Senior Editor
LinuxWorld Magazine