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February 5, 2003

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SCO's Blake Stowell, MozillaQuest Magazine's Mike Angelo, and Others Discuss SCO Intellectual Property Issues

SCO-Caldera & the GNU/Linux Community: The SCOsource IP Matter

By Mike Angelo -- 5 February 2003 (C)

Article Index

Note: Until 2001, the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO), a UNIX company, and Caldera International (CALD), a Linux company, were two different companies. In 2001, Caldera acquired SCO. Then in 2002 Caldera changed is name to the SCO Group. Many people still think of the SCO Group's Linux operations as Caldera. In order to make sure that readers would know and realize throughout the article that what is now the SCO Group is also the company once called Caldera, the SCO Group is often referred to as SCO-Caldera in this article.

Stories have been floating around the news media and forums regarding licensing of certain Linux libraries (libs). At issue now are some libs owned by the SCO Group (formerly Caldera International) that allow UNIX applications to run on Intel x86 (Ix86) machines -- that translates to running UNIX applications on Linux.

The first of these stories appears to be one by Maureen O'Gara posted 10 January 2003 on LinuxGram, SCO Threatens to Press IP Claims on Linux. On 13 January NewsForge posted Tina Gasperson's story, SCO says it has made no decision on Unix "IP". CNET's Stephen Shankland followed on 14 January with his story SCO fees may hit some Linux users. Links to these articles are provided in the Resources section on page 3 at the end of this article.

SCO-Caldera issued a press release on 22 January 2003 at the LinuxWorld Expo in New York City, formally addressing these issues. The title of the press release is SCO Establishes SCOsource to License Unix Intellectual Property. We discussed this matter with some SCO-Caldera people plus people from Linux distribution packagers, software developers/publishers, and members of the GNU/Linux, free software, and open source communities in attendance at the January 2003 LinuxWorld Expo. We also have discussed the SCO IP issues with some of these people and others by e-mail since the January 2003 LinuxWorld Expo.

The worst-case scenario for the Linux community could be that everyone running Linux would have to pay licensing fees to Caldera. There also has been some concern that SCO-Caldera is planning to charge license fees for GNU, GPL, open source, free or otherwise public domain software.

On the surface and at this time it appears that the SCOsource announcement and issues do not affect current Linux distributions in that the current Linux distributions do not seem to include the SCO-Caldera libraries. However, it could affect Linux installations where the SCO-Caldera libs have been added outside of the libraries loaded as part of a Linux distribution installation. Also, the SCO UnixWare/Linux libraries could be just the tip of an iceberg.

Today, let's look at several issues that are encompassed by the SCOsource announcement:

(1) Are the subject SCO libraries GNU, GPL, Open Source, free software, or otherwise public domain software?

(2) Are the subject SCO-Caldera libraries included in any current, major Linux Distributions?

(3) What libraries are included in the SCO intellectual property (IP) claims?

(4) What applications require the SCO-Caldera IP libraries?

(5) What are the impact and effect of the SCO IP licensing and enforcement on the Linux community?

(6) What else is in this iceberg?

(1) Are the subject SCO libraries GNU, GPL, Open Source, free software, or otherwise public domain software?

The original UNIX was that developed by American Telephone and Telegraph's (AT&T) Bell Laboratories in 1969. One of the UNIX flavors developed subsequently was that developed by the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) and known initially as SCO XENIX and later as SCO UNIX. SCO XENIX/UNIX was designed to run on Ix86 platforms.

Novell bought AT&T's UNIX in 1993 and then sold it to SCO in 1995. That made SCO the owner of both the original AT&T UNIX and its own SCO UNIX variant. While owned by Novell, the AT&T UNIX was renamed UnixWare. Novell designed its UnixWare to run on Ix86 platforms.

In 2001 Caldera bought SCO thus giving Caldera ownership of both the AT&T and SCO UNIX operating systems and accompanying intellectual property (IP). Then in 2002, Caldera International changed its business name to the SCO Group.

Currently SCO develops and sells two UNIX flavors, SCO UnixWare and SCO OpenServer. Both are based on UNIX System V, developed by AT&T's UNIX Systems Laboratory (USL). Novell purchased USL in 1993. SCO's latest Linux product is SCO Linux Server 4.0.

At the January 2003 LinuxWorld Expo, Director of Corporate Communications for the SCO Group, Blake Stowell, told MozillaQuest Magazine that the SCO-Caldera libraries that allow UNIX applications to run on Ix86 platforms are part of the originally AT&T UNIX intellectual property. These libraries were never GNU, GPL, Open Source, or otherwise public domain software.

Intellectual property Note

In this article we use the somewhat vague term intellectual property, in part because that term is the one SCO chooses to use in its SCOsource documents. Free software advocate Richard Stallman believes that the term intellectual property is inappropriate. To see why he believes the term intellectual property is inappropriate, please see his essay Some Confusing or Loaded Words and Phrases that are Worth Avoiding. A link is in the Resources section at the end of this article. However, the focus of this article is on the SCO property whether it be in the nature of copyright, patent, or trademark. In order to avoid the off-focus issue of the appropriateness of the term intellectual property here, we operationally define the term intellectual property to include property whether it be in the nature of copyright, patent, or trademark.

Richard Stallman also is concerned about the somewhat loose use of the terms GNU/Linux and Linux. To see why Richard Stallman is concerned about the use of the terms GNU/Linux and Linux, please see his essay Linux and the GNU Project. A link is in the Resources section at the end of this article.)

The subject libraries are now the intellectual property of the SCO Group via a chain of title from AT&T to Novell to SCO to Caldera now the SCO Group, which in effect is SCO-Caldera.

(2) Are the subject SCO-Caldera libraries included in any current major Linux Distributions?

During a LinuxWorld Expo discussion, SCO-Caldera's Blake Stowell told MozillaQuest Magazine that he was not aware of any current Linux distributions that contain the SCO-Caldera IP libraries.

Also during a LinuxWorld Expo discussion, Red Hat Marketing Vice-President Mark Devisser told MozillaQuest Magazine that he was not aware of any SCO-Caldera intellectual property (IP) included with Red Hat Linux. He also told MozillaQuest Magazine that the SCO-Caldera IP libraries have no effect upon Red Hat Linux.

In an e-mail discussion SuSE's Vice-President for Corporate Communication Joseph Eckert told MozillaQuest Magazine: We do not believe that SuSE Linux contains any of the SCO Libraries.

Conectiva spokesperson Gordon Ho, CFA, in an e-mail discussion told MozillaQuest Magazine: Conectiva Linux does not contain any of the SCO UNIX shared libraries.

Scott McNeil is the Executive Director of the Free Standards Group (FSG), which is responsible for the Linux Standard Base (LSB) and other standards initiatives. In an e-mail discussion about the SCO intellectual property issues, Scott told MozillaQuest Magazine: The Free Standards Group only builds standards based on open source software. None of our standards (LSB, OpenI18N, OpenPrinting) include or reference the SCO libraries in question.

Both our corporate members and free software developer members require us to keep all software with legal dependencies out of our work. This way everyone can rely upon open source standards to be as free as open source software.

Scott McNeil went on to clarify this in a follow-up e-mail discussion by adding: LSB Certified Linux distributions are free to contain elements above and beyond the standard. It is their right to determine what value-add they wish to include above the commonality layer that LSB Certification requires . . . Linux Distribution Value-Add includes things like operating system installation tools, system administration tools, documentation, screen savers with distribution company logo, etc.

(3) What libraries are included in the SCO intellectual property (IP) claims?

One of the questions we asked SCO-Caldera's Blake Stowell is what SCO libraries are involved. Here is Blake's complete e-mail reply to that question.

On a Linux system, these OpenServer Libraries will be installed in either /shlib or /emul/osr5/shlib

The specific library files in the directory will be:


















In order for the OpenServer libraries to work, the Linux kernel must have the appropriate Linux-abi module loaded. If you run the command "lsmod" on a Linux system, you will see a list of active kernel modules. The ones that enable OpenServer emulation are:






UnixWare libraries are less likely to be in use. They also consist of a much larger list of files (85 files). Because the file structure of Linux is so similar to UnixWare, it is likely that the UnixWare libraries would all be under a directory with a name like /emul/uw7. Under this directory you would see directories called /usr/lib and /usr/X that held most of the 85 UnixWare dynamic shared library files.

MozillaQuest Magazine asked some follow-up questions via e-mail.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Are not libX11R5_s, libX11R5a_s, libX11R5b_s, libXR4sco_s X Window files? How does this affect and impact upon X Window in Linux distributions?

Blake Stowell: These are OpenServer versions of X Windows libraries. However they get installed on the Linux system in a directory (/emul/osr5/shlib) where they are only seen and used by OpenServer applications so they have no impact on Linux applications.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Regarding binfmt_coff, abi-util, lcall7, abi-svr4, abi-sco; are any of these modules SCO IP?

Blake Stowell: No, none of the code in the Linux ABI modules contains SCO IP. This code is under the GPL and it re-implements publicly documented interfaces. We do not have an issue with the Linux ABI modules. The IP that we are licensing is all in the shared libraries - these libraries are needed by many OpenServer applications *in addition* to the Linux ABI.

  • See What applications require the SCO IP libraries? on Page 2 ----->

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