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March 4, 2003

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SCO's Blake Stowell, MozillaQuest Magazine's Mike Angelo, plus Allen Brown, Richard Gooch, and Richard Stallman Discuss SCO Intellectual Property Issues

SCO-Caldera & the GNU/Linux Community: Part 2, Under the Iceberg's Tip

Nearly One-Half of SCO-Caldera Income from IP Licensing and Enforcement

Are Linux or C++ on SCO-Caldera's IP Hit List?

By Mike Angelo -- 4 March 2003 (C) -- Page 3

Article Index

Under the Iceberg's Tip:

  • SCO-Caldera Claims Linux Is a Derivative of Its UNIX IP

MozillaQuest Magazine: The 22 January 2003 SCOsource press release, SCO Establishes SCOsource to License Unix Intellectual Property, specifically addresses the set of SCO intellectual property libraries that allow SCO UnixWare applications to run on Linux platforms. Is there any other SCO intellectual property that is applicable to Linux and/or GNU/Linux? If so what is it and how does it apply to Linux and/or GNU/Linux?

Blake Stowell: SCO owns the core UNIX code that was originally developed by AT&T. Everyone knows (and Linus has publicly stated) that Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code. Whether or not parts of SCO's UNIX intellectual property resides in any parts of Linux is still being investigated. To comment further on that would be pre-mature until we come to a conclusion on any findings.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Can you please explain what you mean by "Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code"?

Blake Stowell: Linus Torvalds has stated over and over that Linux was developed as a derivative of UNIX. I think Linus has been pretty clear on that. It's not a mystery.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Does "Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code" mean that the Linux source code is a subset of the UNIX source code?

Blake Stowell: Yes.

MozillaQuest Magazine: It seems that this very investigation into whether "parts of SCO's UNIX intellectual property resides in any parts of Linux" is what has so many people in the GNU/Linux, Linux, open source software, and free software communities curious and irate about the SCOsource initiative. Why would SCO spend the time, money, and other resources to conduct such an investigation if there were not some thoughts about possibly licensing such SCO IP?

Blake Stowell: Lets go back to the gas service station comparison. If you were the service station owner, and you knew that people were taking your gasoline on purpose, would you turn a blind eye to it and say, "these people might be curious and irate with me if I tell them that I need to start charging them for the gasoline that they are stealing." Property is property, and if there is the potential that SCO's intellectual property is being used without permission, then we need to investigate that. We're not saying yet that it is, but we have to research areas where that might be happening. Anyone who runs a business can certainly understand that. (Emphases added.)

MozillaQuest Magazine: 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?

Blake Stowell: SCO has contributed to the Open Source community in the past, and I'm sure that SCO will contribute to the Open Source community in the future. SCO isn't going to give away intellectual property that the company could be monetizing for the benefit of its shareholders. (Emphasis Added.)

MozillaQuest Magazine: Do you have a URL where Linus Torvalds states that "Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code" or someone says that Linus said that?

Blake Stowell: Go to and type in the words Linus derivative UNIX. You'll see that 5,010 hits appear. Choose your favorite URL and read all about it.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Comment: I thought that Linux was pretty much built from the ground up rather than using the UNIX source code. If parts of SCO's UNIX intellectual property reside in any parts of Linux, then it looks as though SCO could enforce its UNIX IP against the Linux community and require licenses to use Linux.

We did check a few hits from a Google search to see if we could verify SCO's claim that Linus has publicly stated . . . that Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code. We found nothing that indicated Linus Torvalds has ever made any such statement.

Our position is that if SCO wants to claim that Linus Torvalds has publicly stated . . . that Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code, the burden is on SCO to cite a specific reference to such a statement. SCO has not met that burden!

We also spent considerable time attempting to verify SCO's claim that Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code. Rather than verify SCO's claim that Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code, the result was just the opposite. Here are examples of statements from two well-respected organizations that contradict SCO-Caldera's claim that Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code. Links to the Web sites where these statements are made are in the Resources section at the end of this article on page 5.

Developed by Linus Torvalds, Linux is a product that mimics the form and function of a UNIX system, but is not derived from licensed source code. Rather, it was developed independently; by a group of developers in an informal alliance on the net. A major benefit is that the source code is freely available (under the GNU copyleft), enabling the technically astute to alter and amend the system; it also means that there are many, freely available, utilities and specialist drivers available on the net. (What about Linux, The Open Group)


In biology, clone usually means an exact copy. However, computer people often use clone to mean something other than an exact copy where the clone is functionally similar to the original but not an underlying exact copy. In our discussions about the use of the word clone, Richard Gooch noted: My understanding of current usage in the computing field is that "clone" means "functionally identical, but independently implemented". This is computing, not biology, so the definitions are different.

Richard Stallman mentioned that: "Clone" has a specific meaning in the software field. It means "a compatible replacement rewritten from scratch." A copy is not a clone. I guess programmers misused biological terminology. Another way of saying it is that GNU/Linux is a compatible replacement for Unix, written separately.

Linux is a clone of the operating system Unix, written from scratch by Linus Torvalds with assistance from a loosely-knit team of hackers across the Net. It aims towards POSIX and Single UNIX Specification compliance. (What is Linux?, Kernel.Org Organization.)

However, on the other hand Roger Chang in his TechTV article Is Linux Right for You? states: Linux is a derivative of the Unix operating system. Using the Google search string that Blake Stowell suggested, we found other Web pages that make similar statements also. We did not look at all 5,010 URLs which that search string returns. For the most part, the URLs we did check either did not say that Linux is a UNIX derivative, were not authoritative sources, or did not seem to understand the meaning of the term derivative.

MozillaQuest Magazine: What do you see as the impact and effect of the SCO IP licensing and enforcement on the Linux, GNU, open source, and free software communities?

Blake Stowell: So far all that we have announced is that we are licensing our UNIX libraries for use with Linux. The Linux community should actually see that as a very positive thing because now customers have access to nearly 4,000 UNIX applications that they didn't have before. So when you think about it from that standpoint, SCO is actually helping to grow the application base for Linux overnight by 4,000 applications. SCO is making Linux more useful. (Emphasis added.)

SCO is a Linux company and we're interested in seeing Linux succeed and in growing the Linux community. SCO believes that the open source and proprietary software models both have their strengths. SCO has regularly contributed to the Open Source community and at Linuxworld in 2002 we were even recognized by the Best of Show judges as having the best Open Source project. SCO doesn't believe that Linux has to lose in order for SCO to win and vice versa. We think both can succeed and SCO intends to help Linux where possible. (Emphases added.)

MozillaQuest Magazine: Comment: Wording such as "So far all that we have announced is that we are licensing our UNIX libraries for use with Linux" is troubling -- particularly the "so far" part. It's that tip of the iceberg thing mentioned in our 5 February 2003 SCOsource article. Looking over our previous discussion, 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.

  • C++ Issues

MozillaQuest Magazine: C++ appears to be one of the properties that SCO acquired through Novell's acquisition of AT&T's UNIX Systems Laboratories and subsequent purchase of Novell's UNIX interests by SCO. At this time most Linux and/or GNU/Linux distributions include C++ compilers and editors. Is this something for which SCO currently charges? If so, just what are the current arrangements? If not, will C++ licensing and enforcement be added to SCO's licensing and enforcement program?

Blake Stowell: C++ is one of the properties that SCO owns today and we frequently are approached by customers who wish to license C++ from us and we do charge for that. Those arrangements are done on a case-by-case basis with each customer and are not disclosed publicly. C++ licensing is currently part of SCO's SCOsource licensing program.

MozillaQuest Magazine: How about GNU C++? Does GNU C++ use SCO IP? If so, could SCO license and/or charge for use of its IP in GNU C++?

Blake Stowell: I honestly don't know.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Does the C++ that currently is included in most if not all Linux distributions contain SCO IP?

(a) If so, is that being done with or without SCO permissions/licensing?

(b) If so, what impact/affect does this have on the ability of people to freely distribute and use copies of those Linux distributions? (Under GNU licensing, anyone may make as many copies of a GNU/Linux distribution as they please, freely distribute them for no charge and/or for a charge, and use a GNU/Linux on as many computes as they please -- at no charge. Etc.)

Blake Stowell: Again, I don't know. That's something we would have to research.

  • See Community Responds to SCO-Caldera's IP Claims on Page 4 ----->

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