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May 28, 2003

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MozillaQuest Op-Ed

SCO-Caldera v IBM:

Is SCO Trying to Dictate Linux Kernel and GNU/Linux Development Procedures?

Linux and the SCO-Caldera v IBM Lawsuit

By Mike Angelo -- 28 May 2003 (C) -- Page 2

Kernel.Org and GNU/Linux Developers Have Clean Code Safeguards

Article Index

SCO-Caldera v. IBM:

SCO Clears Linux Kernel but Implicates Red Hat and SuSE

IBM Files Answer to SCO's Caldera v IBM Complaint

IBM Response to SCO-Caldera Complaint Is Outrageous!


SCO-Caldera & the GNU/Linux Community:

SCO's Rubber Hammer -- Dictating to the Linux Community

In Blake Stowell's correction request, he addresses concerns as to what the kernel.org. GNU/Linux, and Linux distribution people do, and ought to do, to keep proprietary code out of their Linux kernels, operating systems, and distributions.

Blake Stowell (29 April 2003): . . . However, SCO is still concerned that there is no mechanism in place in the Linux community to address what gets added to the kernel, and the periphery of the kernel, to make sure that there is no proprietary software being included. Yes, Linus [Torvalds] and Alan Cox and others control what gets added to the kernel, but how do they know that what is being contributed is not proprietary? SCO would still like to see this get resolved in some way at some point."

Keeping the Linux code-base clean of unlicensed, proprietary code is important and it is a legitimate concern. However --

The first issue that concerned us here is the appearance that SCO-Caldera is attempting to use threats of copyright enforcement and lawsuits to dictate kernel.org's Linux kernel development methods and policies. Likewise for the GNU/Linux operating system and the Linux distributions. SCO-Caldera also appears to be using threats of copyright enforcement and lawsuits to dictate how Linux distribution providers (LDPs) go about developing and producing their Linux distributions.

Another issue that concerned us here is the appearance that SCO-Caldera has no clue as to how the kernel.org or GNU/Linux people go about developing and maintaining the Linux kernel or the GNU/Linux OS. Yet SCO spokespeople are making statements that the Linux community is not watchful for, and guarding against, SCO-owned Unix code seeping into Linux. Moreover, has SCO-Caldera even discussed this issue with the kernel.org people or GNU/Linux people? Same goes for the LDPs.

Perhaps even more onerous is the fact that as far as we know, SCO-Caldera has never gone to the kernel.org people or GNU/Linux people, showed them what SCO-Caldera perceives to be SCO-owned code in the kernel.org Linux kernel, and asked them to remove that code from the kernel.org Linux kernel or the GNU/Linux OS? Same goes for the LDPs.

Linux Distros Guard Against SCO-Code in Their Products

We had occasion to discuss these issues with Mandrake Linux founder Gaël Duval on 19 May 2003, via e-mail.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Is there any SCO-Owned code in Mandrake Linux?

Gaël Duval: MandrakeSoft takes care that all the code that is distributed in Mandrake Linux Download Edition is available for download on Internet under the terms of a Free Software license. All the code done at MandrakeSoft is GPL or similar.

In an e-mail discussion on 19 May, we asked SuSE Linux Vice-President for Corporate Communications, Joseph Eckert, about this:

MozillaQuest Magazine: Is there any SCO-Owned code in SuSE Linux?

Joseph Eckert: No -- there is not.

MozillaQuest Magazine: What steps, if any, does SuSE Linux take to insure there is no proprietary code in SuSE Linux?

Joseph Eckert: We are very careful and have many processes in place to protect IP . . . we have a joint development agreement with SCO as well as very good processes in place to protect IP -- we don't feel we need to do more.

We agree that SuSE does not need to do more. And, Mandrake's Gaël Duval says that MandrakeSoft only uses GPL (General Public License) or similar code in order to keep proprietary code out of Mandrake Linux.

It appears to us that SuSE and Mandrake are guarding against SCO-owned Unix code seeping into their Linux distributions. Moreover, it's up to SCO-Caldera, not the Linux distribution providers, to protect its Unix copyrights -- except not in the way SCO-Caldera is doing that.

To the extent that SCO is protecting its copyrights as to SCO-owned code possibly seeping into the Linux kernel, the GNU/Linux operating system, or any Linux distributions, it's up to SCO-Caldera to check to see if there is any SCO-owned code there.

It is unreasonable and unacceptable that SCO-Caldera is threatening to sue anyone and everyone. Particularly without first pointing out, to whomever SCO-Caldera believes is a copyright infringer, specifically what code SCO-Caldera says it owns that appears in the person's or company's product. And particularly without SCO-Caldera asking that the identified SCO-owned code be removed or licensed.

SCO Conceit Note: At this point in SCO's war on Linux Darl McBride and SCO-Caldera are reminiscent of the epitome of conceit characterized by a male ant, floating down the river in a sexually aroused state, yelling for the drawbridge to be raised. Of course, you never know. Perhaps McBride and SCO-Caldera might have something there. But so far they have not shown anything.

GPL Note: In a sense the GPL (General Public License), a creation of the GNU project, is at the heart of Free Software and open source software. It's the license upon which the Linux kernel, the GNU/Linux operating system, and most Linux distributions are built.

We maintain this free software definition to show clearly what must be true about a particular software program for it to be considered free software.

``Free software'' is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of ``free'' as in ``free speech,'' not as in ``free beer.''

Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software.

(The Free Software Definition, Free Software Foundation. Please see also What Is Copyleft? and the GNU General Public License. Links in Resources section at the end of this article.)

SCO Shows No Public Evidence of Tainted Linux Code

Moreover, SCO-Caldera has yet to show a scintilla of, let alone probative, evidence of SCO-owned Unix code in the kernel.org Linux kernel or the GNU/Linux operating system. Nor has SCO-Caldera shown the presence of any unauthorized SCO-owned Unix code in any Linux distributions.

While doing such is not always a prerequisite to filing a copyright infringement lawsuit, we believe that it is in respect to Linux distribution providers (LDPs) and SCO copyrights. The LDPs grab most if not all the code they include in their Linux distributions from third party sources. Moreover, such grabbed, third-party code usually comes with a GPL or comparable public license. The kernel.org Linux kernel and GNU/Linux operating system are good examples.

So, the LDPs are relying on a GPL or comparable public license associated with code that they grab to insure they do not include proprietary code in their Linux distributions, without permission to do so. That's reasonable.

The point here is that as near as we can tell most, if not all, LDPs have no intent to infringe on anyone's copyrights. And more importantly they are using source code that is to their knowledge under a GPL or comparable public license. Or, in some instances they might include proprietary software. However when they do that, it is with the permission of the copyright owner. Please see GPL Note in the sidebar.



  • See SCO Fails to Meet Its Burdens 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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    SCO-Caldera v IBM:


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

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