SCO's Expanding IP Licensing and Enforcement, Will It Target Linux or C++ ?
Since our discussions with SCO's Blake Stowell as part of the legwork for our 5 February SCO IP article, we have had additional, extensive, e-mail discussions with him about SCO IP matters -- too much to include in an article. However, we here will present to you excerpts from much of these discussions -- thus letting you in on the meat of these discussions.
You will see what SCO, through its spokesperson Blake Stowell, has to say about the SCO IP issues in its own words, in context, and uncensored. You also will see excerpts of our discussions with Allen Brown, Richard Gooch, and Richard Stallman about SCO-Caldera's intellectual property claims.
We asked SCO to explain in its own words why it implemented the SCOsource project -- SCO-Caldera's IP licensing and enforcement arm. Blake Stowell, SCO's Director of Marketing Communications, answered for SCO-Caldera.
MozillaQuest Magazine: In your own words and thoughts, why has SCO started its SCOsource initiative/project and what does SCO expect to achieve from its SCOsource endeavors?
Blake Stowell: SCO created SCOsource because the company has a large library of intellectual property that customers frequently wish to license from us. Up until this point, we frequently had to turn customers away because we didn't have a mechanism in place to license this intellectual property. Now we do. We now expect to gain a higher level of revenue from our intellectual property than we ever could have before. (Emphasis added.)
MozillaQuest Magazine: How much new revenue do you expect SCOsource to develop for SCO?
Blake Stowell: SCO is a public company and we report on our revenue projections on a quarterly basis, so it would be improper for me to comment on exactly how much revenue we expect to gain from SCOsource.
MozillaQuest Magazine: In that case, what is SCO's current revenue from IP licensing? (Last fiscal quarter and last fiscal year data is fine.) What percent of SCO's total revenue is from IP licensing? (Last fiscal quarter and last fiscal year data is fine.)
Interestingly, SCO-Caldera's January 2003 SEC 10-K filing discusses SCO's IP licensing endeavors -- but it does not provide any SCO IP licensing revenue figures.
However, truth is that SCO-Caldera expects an anticipated $10-million in revenues from intellectual property licensing and enforcement for the fiscal quarter ending 30 April 2003. That means that SCO intellectual property licensing and enforcement will contribute nearly one-half (43.4-percent actually) of its anticipated $23-million in revenues for the fiscal quarter ending 30 April 2003.
Regarding the SCO-Caldera libraries that allow SCO UnixWare and SCO OpenServer applications to run on Intel x86 Linux platforms:
MozillaQuest Magazine: On the surface and at this time it appears that this does 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. What is your response to this?
Blake Stowell: SCO has never stated that we felt that Linux distributions were shipping our UNIX libraries. We've only stated that many Linux users had illegally copied SCO's UNIX libraries and were using these with Linux so they could run UNIX applications on top of Linux. Some Linux users have obviously been wanting to gain the benefits of UNIX (by using SCO's UNIX libraries) while paying the cost of Linux (which in some cases has been nothing if they downloaded it for free). SCO's stand on this is pretty simple. If you are using our proprietary UNIX libraries, then you should pay for them. Most people that we explain that to don't argue with that. (Emphasis added.)
MozillaQuest Magazine: It appears that the inclusion of the SCO UnixWare/Linux libraries in SCO's Linux products would be an incentive for people and organizations to buy SCO's Linux products rather than other Linux distributions. Is this part of what's behind the SCOsource endeavor?
Blake Stowell: You are absolutely right. Most Linux vendors today try to differentiate their product offerings by layering support and services on top of their product. One of the differentiators that SCO is providing to SCO Linux Server 4.0 customers is these UNIX libraries at no extra cost to the customer. If a customer is intending to run UNIX applications on top of Linux, then it wouldn't make sense to go anywhere else but SCO for your Linux distribution. Going to a different Linux vendor could potentially mean hundreds or thousands of dollars more in licensing costs for these UNIX libraries.
Blake Stowell: SCO has publicly said that we will be willing to license these UNIX libraries to any Linux vendor who wants to license them from us. That includes any Linux vendor, not just UnitedLinux partners.
So far a reasonable, albeit strong, implementation of IP licensing and enforcement in order to generate revenues and protect sales of a company's own products.
However, what if there is SCO IP in the Linux kernel, the GNU/Linux operating system, and GNU C++ -- and what if SCO-Caldera decides it wants to make some money from the SCO IP that might be contained in the Linux kernel, the GNU/Linux operating system, and GNU C++?
MozillaQuest Magazine: At this point, it appears that SCO's licensing and enforcement of its UNIX shared libraries that allow Linux users to run UnixWare applications on Linux are pretty much limited to the running of UnixWare applications on Linux platforms. Is that correct? If so, that appears to be a reasonable protection of SCO's IP rights and attempt to generate revenues from its intellectual properties -- nothing for the GNU/Linux, free software, or open source communities to get upset about.
On the other hand, if SCO's licensing and enforcement of its intellectual properties goes beyond running UnixWare applications on the Linux platform, that could generate lots of bad will from the GNU/Linux, free software, or open source communities. What are your thoughts about that?
Blake Stowell: First of all, SCO's libraries help to run UNIX applications on both SCO OpenServer and SCO UnixWare. In fact, the majority of the UNIX applications are run on SCO OpenServer. So many customers are taking UNIX applications that were intended to run on OpenServer and UnixWare and running them on Linux using SCO's UNIX libraries.
SCO's enforcement of its intellectual property WILL go beyond these UNIX libraries. If people have bad feelings about SCO's enforcement then they probably need to re-examine the reasons why they use proprietary software without paying for it. It's sort of like someone who drives up to a gas station, fills up their gas tank, and then drives off without paying. Should the gas station be worried that the person who drove off without paying might be mad at them if the gas station called the cops and had them arrested for not paying? Software piracy can't be condoned and SCO is taking the necessary steps to make sure that their intellectual property isn't being pirated. Anyone who runs a business can certainly agree with that. (All caps in original reply. Other emphases added.)
MozillaQuest Magazine: Comment: On the one hand, what you say here makes lots of sense and is reasonable. On the other hand, a major idea of GNU/Linux and the free software movement is to provide software that is in the public domain. All GNU software must be free software . . .
While your example works for gasoline and the SCO UnixWare libraries, it might not work for, let's say water or a public roadway -- or for GNU/GPL and free software. Picture the classic Western/Cowboy movie where some upstream land baron decides to block or redirect the natural flow of water in some way and then charge the downstream people for water. Or a somewhat parallel scenario where a land baron decides to charge tolls to people traveling over a trail/roadway that cuts across his lands -- but for years there has been no charge to people traveling that trail/roadway.
These sorts of scenarios usually create a major fracas with John Wayne or some other cowboy hero whipping-up on the bad dudes and restoring the free use of water or trail.
Looking over our previous discussions, the SCOsource public announcement and documents, and your answers to my questions here, it appears quite possible that GNU/Linux, Linux, GPL software, and/or free software might contain SCO IP and that SCO might seek to enforce and/or license its IP contained within GNU/Linux, Linux, GPL software, and/or free software. To the extent that SCO might have a legal right to do that, there is a question of moral right here -- and of being a good citizen of the Linux/free-software community.
It seems to me that if SCO should ever attempt to enforce and /or license its IP contained within GNU/Linux, Linux, GPL software, and/or free software, it is going to come off as the greedy land-baron rather than the gas station victimized by a fuel thief. I believe Amy Wohl's comments in my [previous] SCO IP article go to this too.
MozillaQuest Magazine: The worst-case scenario for the Linux community could be that everyone running Linux would have to pay licensing fees to SCO. There also has been some concern that SCO is planning to charge license fees for GNU, GPL, Open Source, or otherwise public domain or free software. What is your response to this?
Blake Stowell: In all of our announcements and communications around SCOsource, SCO has given no indications that we intend to charge licensing fees to every user of Linux. Whoever is speculating about that worst-case scenario is misinformed.
MozillaQuest Magazine: Stating that "SCO has given no indications that we intend to charge licensing fees to every user of Linux" is not the same as saying that SCO would never do that. If there is some SCO IP somewhere in GNU/Linux and or Linux, other than the SCO UnixWare/UNIX/Linux libraries that allow SCO UnixWare and SCO OpenServer applications to run on Linux that we have been discussing, will SCO put such IP in the public domain and allow free use of such SCO IP? Will SCO open source, GPL, and/or GNU such IP? Or, will SCO seek to charge license fees for it?
Blake Stowell: You can't ask a company to say that they will never do something. Can you say that if anyone ever gets in a traffic accident with you that you will never take legal action against them? Of course not, and SCO can't say that either. If we did say such a thing, then the Open Source community could simply say, "Well, they said they'll never take legal action against us, so let's just rob and pillage all of SCO's IP."
MozillaQuest Magazine: Blake, with all due respect, that sort of position likely plays very well to the SCO choir. However, likely the GNU/Linux and free software people will look at it as though SCO is trying to hold something over their heads. SCO could take the position that it will not attempt to enforce IP rights that it might have as to the existing Linux kernel and/or existing GNU/Linux -- without opening the door for the Linux kernel and GNU/Linux people to 'rob and pillage all of SCO's IP'. :-)
In the trail example, the land baron can say, "y'all can continue to travel over this trail through my lands that you have traveled over for years -- without charge or restriction. But you cannot graze your cattle on my ranch lands, which the trail goes through. You must stay on the trail or pay to graze your cattle."
MozillaQuest Magazine: Looking over the 22 January 2003 SCOsource press release, SCO Establishes SCOsource to License Unix Intellectual Property and the SCOsource Q&A, it appears that SCO's UNIX shared libraries that allow Linux users to run UnixWare applications on Linux are just the first of SCO intellectual properties that SCO plans to license and enforce. What other SCO properties will be added to this licensing and enforcement program?
(Links to SCO Establishes SCOsource to License Unix Intellectual Property and the SCOsource Q&A, are in the Resources section at the end of this article on page 5.)
Blake Stowell: I can't comment on that at this time. When we are ready to license further parts of our intellectual property, we will announce that through a press release to disclose that publicly.
The obvious implication here is that SCO does plan to license additional SCO IP.
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