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

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

By Mike Angelo -- 5 February 2003 (C) -- Page 3

On the surface it appears that at this time:

(a) the subject SCO libraries are not GNU, GPL, open source, free software, or otherwise public domain software,

(b) the subject SCO-Caldera libraries are not included in any current major Linux Distributions -- other than perhaps SCO-Caldera Linux,

(c) there is no significant impact and effect of the SCO IP licensing and enforcement effort on the Linux community, and

(d) the UNIX applications that require the subject SCO-Caldera libraries are applications designed to run on SCO OpenServer or SCO UnixWare.

However, the SCO shared libraries that allow UnixWare and OpenServer applications to run on Linux could be just the tip of a SCO-Caldera intellectual licensing and enforcement endeavor iceberg. The comments made by our sources are made on the basis of what is known to them now. Things easily could change as SCO's intellectual property licensing and enforcement endeavors progress -- or as more information about SCO's intellectual properties comes to light.

SuSE Vice-President Joseph Eckert put it well: all we can comment on is what we know. We believe SCO certainly has a right to protect its intellectual property rights and the library announcement they made makes perfect sense.

We agree with Joseph Eckert's observation that SCO-Caldera has a right to protect its intellectual property rights. The licensing of the SCO shared libraries that allow UnixWare and OpenServer applications to run on Linux makes sense and is reasonable from a business/commercial/proprietary software point of view.

However, SCO has gone through the hoops of forming a special group, SCOsource, to license and enforce its intellectual properties Moreover SCOscource appears to be a major SCO undertaking. SCOsource is under the direction of SCO Senior Vice-President Chris Sontag and SCO engaged a high profile lawyer, David Boies, to ramrod the IP licensing and enforcement legal activities. One cannot help but wonder if SCO-Caldera has much more in mind than simply protecting its shared libraries that allow UnixWare and OpenServer applications to run on Linux.

It is not surprising that many people in the GNU/Linux, free software, and open source communities are somewhat apprehensive about SCO-Caldera's newly announced intellectual property licensing and enforcement plans. First, there has been an ongoing and understandable state of tension between many people in the GNU/Linux, free software, and open source communities and the commercial Linux distribution packagers for years.

One thing that has kept that state of tension minimal is that typically commercial Linux distribution packagers make their basic GNU/Linux distributions available for downloading at no charge. Another is that typically commercial Linux distribution packagers do not seek per seat licensing for their commercial Linux distributions.

SCO-Caldera has a history of ruffling feathers in the GNU/Linux, free software, and open source communities. When Caldera International released its OpenLinux 3.0 products in 2001 with a per-seat licensing requirement, it deviated from the traditional commercial Linux distribution practice of allowing unlimited use of commercial Linux distributions. That ruffled some feathers in the GNU/Linux, free software, and open source communities.

In mid-August 2002 at the LinuxWorld Expo in San Francisco, Caldera's then new CEO Darl McBride made some very divisive statements. He fired full salvos at Red Hat Linux and ignored Mandrake Linux. That ruffled some feathers in the GNU/Linux communities. However, please also see our article SCO's Darl McBride and MozillaQuest Magazine's Mike Angelo Discuss Caldera Linux and LSB.

With its SCOsource announcements, SCO-Caldera again has raised some eyebrows in the GNU/Linux, free software, and open source communities. Just how high those eyebrows will be raised depends upon just how SCO-Caldera goes about its IP enforcement activities.

If SCO's licensing and enforcement activities do not affect the GNU/Linux, free software, and open source communities more than what they appear to do so at this time, then likely SCO will not encounter any serious public relations problems with the GNU/Linux, Linux, free software, and open source communities.

However, if SCO's licensing and enforcement activities do affect the GNU/Linux, Linux, free software, and open source communities more than what they appear to do so at this time, SCO could find itself in serious public relations problems with those GNU/Linux, free software, and open source communities.

Amy D. Wohl is the Editor of Amy D. Wohl's Opinions. She stated things very well in some e-mail discussions about the SCOsource announcements.

I think knowing just what SCO has IP rights to and what they plan to do about them needs to be the first step here.

I'm speculating. Given that, I think if SCO-Caldera has IP rights and chose to enforce them against the Linux community it would (1) unleash a storm of bad publicity and ill-will and (2) force the Linux community to look for a way around whatever it is that SCO wants to be paid for. I don't think there is a mechanism for Linux to pay SCO for the use of intellectual property, given that so much of the code is given away at no charge.

The C++ issue would be especially damaging, but would probably simply lead to the abandonment of C++ by many Linux developers.

I suspect that after getting drawn and quartered in public, SCO would end up giving its IP, with some limits, to the OS community.

The SCOsource intellectual property licensing and enforcement is far from a wrap. This article is just the beginning of the story. Nevertheless, hopefully this beginning puts to rest the rumor, concerns, and whatever that would have SCO interfering with the current Linux distributions regarding the UNIX/Linux libraries.

Moreover today's article is only part of that first step that Amy Wohl mentions. Today's article lists and discusses the SCO intellectual property and SCO licensing plans that are above the waterline of the SCOsource IP iceberg.

The remaining, unanswered questions are below that waterline. Could SCO's IP licensing and enforcement endeavors find SCO locking horns with the GNU/Linux, Linux, free software, and open source communities? Could SCO get into intellectual property battles with Apple, Microsoft, or other UNIX providers such as HP, IBM, or Sun? Those are unknowns until SCO makes full and complete disclosure of its intellectual property licensing and enforcement plans.

There likely is lots more to come Stay tuned.

Resources

SCO and UNIX documents

SCOsource Web site

SCO Establishes SCOsource to License Unix Intellectual Property

SCOsource Q&A document

SCOsource's UNIX Intellectual Property presentation

Novell signs definitive agreement to buy AT&T's UNIX System Labs

Linux A.B.I.

Articles, Periodicals, Etc.

Amy D. Wohl's Opinions

Linux and the GNU Project Richard Stallman

SCO casts wider net for infringers Stephen Shankland, CNET, January 22, 2003

SCO fees may hit some Linux users Stephen Shankland, CNET, January 14, 2003

SCO says it has made no decision on Unix "IP" Tina Gasperson, NewsForge, January 13, 2003

SCO Threatens to Press IP Claims on Linux Maureen O'Gara, LimuxGram, January 10, 2003

Some Confusing or Loaded Words and Phrases that are Worth Avoiding Richard Stallman


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