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March 18, 2003

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Linux Kernel Gurus Reject SCO-Caldera v IBM Lawsuit Claims

SCO-Caldera v IBM: Alan Cox, Richard Gooch, and David Weinehall Respond to SCO's Linux-Related Claims

By Mike Angelo -- 18 March 2003 (C) -- Page 2

Article Index

SCO-Caldera v. IBM:

SCO-Caldera & the GNU/Linux Community:

SCO Does Not Own All Unix IP

Note: SCO-Caldera is successor in title to the original AT&T Unix source code. However, the Open Group is the successor in title to the Unix trademark and Unix specifications. SCO does not now, nor has it ever, owned the complete, total bundle of Unix intellectual property (IP) rights. SCO-Caldera does not make that clear in its IBM Complaint. The vague and broad manner in which the Caldera v IBM Complaint is pled easily can lead one to mistakenly believe that SCO-Caldera did gain title to the complete, total bundle of Unix intellectual property (IP) rights. So as David Weinehall points out, the only traditional IP claim SCO-Caldera could make is copyright infringement. As you see from the rest of this discussion, SCO-Caldera would be very hard-pressed to prove copyright infringement, as David notes.

On with today's discussion

MozillaQuest Magazine: It sounds as though this lawsuit is not a suit alleging copyright infringement, patent infringement, or trademark infringement (the standard three prongs of the intellectual property complex). Rather, it appears the Caldera v IBM action is more in the nature of a contract or tort action.

David Weinehall: Yes. If SCO would've been stupid enough to sue for patent infringement, IBM would already have counter-sued because IBM's patent portfolio is legendary... As for Trademark, Linux is obviously not called Unix. And I think they'd have a very hard time proving that any copyright infringement has taken place.

MozillaQuest Magazine: It appears that the gravamen of SCO-Caldera's lawsuit involves IBM's support of Linux and the Linux community.

MozillaQuest Magazine: What sort of impact do you believe this sort of lawsuit filed by SCO-Caldera has on the Linux kernel, GNU/Linux, UNIX, and the Linux and free-software communities?

Alan Cox: I guess SCO wants someone to buy the remnants of a rather successful company. I don't believe IBM broke it though.

David Weinehall: Long term, IBM will grind SCO down in the machineries of legalese, and will win the legal process. Thus proving that Linux not only is developed without illegal help, but also that Linux has massive corporate backing; an important thing to know for companies that are hesitating about adopting Linux.

[Note: Right on, David. Mike Fay, IBM Vice-President for Systems Communications tells, MozillaQuest Magazine: We are going to defend ourselves vigorously.]

Richard Gooch: Let me preface all my comments by noting that I haven't read all of the text of the SCO lawsuit, so I don't know the details of all their claims. I've only seen bits and pieces of it and various commentary.

I guess that depends on what their goals are and what they try to get away with in court. There seem to be three main areas in which they might do damage:

- harass IBM into paying extortion money so that IBM can continue to ship AIX

- harass IBM into reducing support for Linux, and push AIX more, which would generate licensing revenue for SCO (they may hope)

- harass the Linux community with "IP infringement" suits.

The latter isn't a serious concern, I think, because there are a lot of people in the community, and they simply don't have the resources to harass all of us. Further, there's no money to be gained from such an attack.

It's fairly clear that SCO is after "easy" money. And IBM is a target with deep pockets (certainly deeper than SCO). Perhaps SCO figures it is easier to extort money to raise revenue than to develop products. However, IBM is not defenseless, and thanks to its deeper pockets, can outlive SCO in such a legal battle, even if SCO were on the side of light and IBM were agents of the dread empire. The harsh reality of the legal system (especially so in the civil courts) is that "justice" is bought and paid for. I expect that IBM can afford more "justice" than SCO can afford.

So IBM should be easily able to resist this legal action if it wishes. For me, the most interesting question is what happens if SCO continues to turn up the heat? Sufficient pressure from SCO may test IBM's determination to continue with its plans for Linux-based product. If SCO does have the ability to shut down AIX, and if it uses that leverage to get IBM to abandon or slow down Linux deployment, will IBM choose AIX or Linux?

Note: You hit the nail right on the head here, Richard. Mike Fay, IBM Vice-President for Systems Communications tells, MozillaQuest Magazine that: Our Unix license is irrevocable and perpetual.

However, I don't think IBM will be faced with such a decision, as they would have been negligent to not have negotiated indefinite rights to the IP used in AIX (that's a lesson that they should have learned from Microsoft:-). My guess is that IBM is in a pretty strong legal position, even before they throw an army of lawyers at this.

So, in summary, I don't see SCO's action as having much effect on Linux. I think the greatest effect will be the bad blood that SCO is creating with the Linux community. This can't help their future revenues.

MozillaQuest Magazine: The impression we formed upon skimming over the 136-paragraph Complaint is that SCO-Caldera is all bent out of shape because SCO is losing UNIX business -- because its UNIX customers are switching to Linux. According to SCO-Caldera's SEC Form 10-K filing, SCO-Caldera looks upon Red Hat, Sun, and SuSE as major competitors -- stating in part: "Our principal competitors in the Linux market include Red Hat, Sun and SuSe."

Richard Gooch: Hey, it's a market economy, right? Adapt or die.

Richard Gooch: SuSE is also supposed to be a partner in "United Linux". This isn't the way to treat a partner, one would think.

MozillaQuest Magazine: In paragraphs "82" to "86" of SCO-Caldera's Complaint (quoted below), the Complaint belittles and insults Linux the kernel, the GNU/Linux operating system, Linux developers, and the entire Linux community when SCO-Caldera says in paragraph "82" that "it would be difficult or impossible for the Linux development community to create a grade of Linux adequate for enterprise use." (Without the aid of the alleged actionable conduct of IBM)

MozillaQuest Magazine: Is that true?

Richard Gooch: Certainly not. It's complete rubbish. People in the Linux community were thinking about and hacking on "enterprise" systems long before IBM made its big splash with the $1B Linux investment. And some of the more prominent Linux developers within IBM were prominent Linux developers long before they joined IBM.

Also, the idea that IBM, or anyone else, can come along and push Linux onto some direction is ludicrous. The Linux community likes to figure things out for itself, and doesn't like being told what to do. Numerous flame-wars on the linux-kernel mailing list are clear evidence of that. Linux doesn't look anything like a commercial UNIX, not only in code (which is a 100% independent implementation), but also in development style and philosophy.

David Weinehall: Obviously it wouldn't be impossible, because then we wouldn't be where we are today. The things people generally regard as enterprise features, such as an LVM (existed before IBM got involved, even though I fancy EVMS more than LVM), a journaling file system (ReiserFS, ext3), scalability (SGI did a lot of work here; the most important help we got from IBM was the valuable testing), hotplug (Compaq has contributed here).

Note: EVMS is Enterprise Volume Management System, LVM is logical volume management, NUMA is non-uniform memory access, and afaict is as far as I can tell.

So, I'd say the claims are indeed wrong. While IBM has contributed a lot (something I really value), Linux does not stand or fall with IBM.

Oh, and something SCO/Caldera seems to have missed totally is who the contributing IBM people actually are; most (all?) of them are the people from the NUMA-Q section, which is a very recent purchase on IBM's part. No SCO code involved there, afaict.

Alan Cox: Unix and most of the major stuff that followed before AT&T actually woke up was created by a few guys in a lab, and thus much of what is BSD Unix today was written by students, staff and random other people.

--- MozillaQuest Magazine: Alan, I guess your point here is that a popular flavor of Unix, BSD Unix, was pretty much written "by students, staff and random other people" so therefore, writing an enterprise grade operating system does not take an organization with the magnitude of resources and people that IBM has available to do it?

-- Alan Cox: Yep.

Alan Cox: System hardening, SMP scaling and most of the other stuff is not a secret art. The real undocumented arts are things like virtual memory where we have most certainly been doing our own thinking.

MozillaQuest Magazine: SCO-Caldera maligns the Linux kernel developers, GNU/Linux, the Linux community, and its UnitedLinux partners and actually all the Linux distribution providers -- plus appears to be bent on destroying GNU/Linux -- at least as an enterprise level operating system.

What are your thoughts about that?

Richard Gooch: SCO appears to be desperate to increase revenue, and is resorting to unreasonable legal tactics in order to do so. As a side effect, they are damaging relations with their partners in United Linux and the wider Linux community. This looks like the last gasp of a dying company. SCO was unwilling to adapt to the "Linux Challenge" in previous years, and now it is probably too late to adapt.

Note: Right on, Richard. It certainly seems SCO-Caldera is burning bridges. PcLinuxOnLine has organized a SCO-Caldera boycott in protest of the Caldera v IBM lawsuit. (Link in the Resources section on page 5.

And just to be sure, they're burning their bridges.

David Weinehall: It's saddening, but probably their only way to ensure money for their shareholders. They have no products to make money from, and they feel cornered, so they resolve to the only thing they know -- lawsuits.

MozillaQuest Magazine: "82. Linux started as a hobby project of a 19-year old student. Linux has evolved through bits and pieces of various contributions by numerous software developers using single processor computers. Virtually none of these software developers and hobbyists had access to enterprise-scale equipment and testing facilities for Linux development. Without access to such equipment, facilities, sophisticated methods, concepts and coordinated know-how, it would be difficult or impossible for the Linux development community to create a grade of Linux adequate for enterprise use." [Caldera v IBM Complaint]

MozillaQuest Magazine: Is any of this true other than perhaps Linus Torvalds was "a 19-year old student"?

David Weinehall: Several of the developers has/had access to enterprise-scale equipment, through HP, SGI, etc.

Richard Gooch: This section has one part which reads as fact, and another which is opinion. They claim as fact that Linux developers didn't have access to enterprise equipment. That's not true. There's a famous post on linux-kernel where Anton Blanchard shows boot logs on a multi-processor Sun Sparc (an E10000 system with 14 CPU's, I think). This was years before IBM made the $1B splash. Maybe Anton now has access to more equipment than he used to, now that he's working for IBM, but the point is that he, and others, had enough access before to get Linux working on enterprise systems. Also, even working in IBM, I think Anton still has to share access to all those nice toys :-)

The second part is opinion, and makes the false claim that the Linux community wasn't capable of creating an enterprise-grade kernel. I see no evidence that supports this opinion. Rather, I see the evidence to the contrary. Linux hackers are speed demons, and like to make their code run fast and scale to large machines. There are well-known cases where a public claim that "Linux sucks" leads to a flurry of analysis and development. This has been known to result in stunning performance and scalability improvements. The infamous Microsoft-funded and aided "Mindcraft" comparison is a good example.

Alan Cox: Its actually far funnier than that.

Caldera (aka SCO) gave me the machine that Linux SMP was written on. The original design is based on "Unix systems for modern architectures" with two neat twists, one I claim credit for the other I forget who contributed (the IRQ bouncer). [UNIX Systems for Modern Architectures: Symmetric Multiprocessing and Caching for Kernel Programmers, Addison Wesley Professional, 1994.]

So Caldera funded and created SMP Linux, not IBM. It was created partly in parallel by two groups one (me) on an 8-Mb dual Pentium box, the other a group at a German university with a quad Compaq box - with no more sophisticated tools than gcc, make, printk and a brain.

In terms of enterprise readiness, IBM certainly helped big time. I think the notion that IBM used Unix knowledge is dubious. IBM had been producing bulletproof operating systems for forty years, they had 'enterprise ready, highly reliable, etc' systems before Unix existed.

-- MozillaQuest Magazine: By the way, are you still working for or associated with Red Hat? Did you ever work for Caldera that they gave you the SMP computer?

-- Alan Cox: I work for Red Hat but I don't represent them. As to Caldera, they provided the machine as a gift to help make Linux SMP happen, nothing more, and well before I "worked" in Linux. At the time a dual P90 was a big deal so it was a very nice gesture by them.

  • See More Discussion on Page 3 ----->

  • Please see the first two parts of our series about SCO-Caldera's IP claims plus its intentions to enforce and license its intellectual property rights.

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

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


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