Blake Stowell for SCO
MozillaQuest Magazine: From your press release about the HP indemnification program, it seems that SCO approves of that program, is that correct?
Blake Stowell: I wouldn't say that we necessarily approve of the program, only that if we were in HP's shoes, we would probably do the same thing. HP feels compelled to protect their customers, so from that standpoint, they are doing everything they can to accomplish that. At the same time, if they want to indemnify their customers in this way, they are taking on a pretty huge financial burden by doing so.
MozillaQuest Magazine: Also, how does HP's Linux indemnification program fit in with HP's Unix license?
Blake Stowell: They are really two separate things from two very different sides of their business. HP does a healthy UNIX business from HP-UX, and also from the HP servers that ship with UnixWare and OpenServer from SCO. We believe that HP's UNIX license is in good standing the same way that Sun's and others are in good standing by honoring the terms of that license.
Blake Stowell: The Linux side of HP's business is an area where we really have very little interaction since having suspended the sales of Linux products from SCO.
MozillaQuest Magazine: Does not the standard first-level Unix License such as the ones HP, IBM, Sequent, SGI, Sun, and so forth have allow those first level licensees to sell Linux products that might have SCO-owned and or copyrighted Unix code in them?
Blake Stowell: UNIX licensees have the right to license UNIX, create derivative works based on that license (in the case of HP they created HP-UX) and create a healthy UNIX business based on that. The UNIX license doesn't address Linux, other than to say that you can't take the UNIX code and contribute it outside of the company's derivative work.
MozillaQuest Magazine: But would that not allow a first-level Unix licensee to include "Unix" code and add that into a Linux product that licensee distributes and then consider that combination of Linux-product code and "Unix" code to be a derivative work of the first-level licensee?
Blake Stowell: No, that would be a violation of their UNIX license. A licensee can't use their UNIX license to cover their UNIX work and then try to have that carry over to also cover any Linux business. It only covers their UNIX products. If you take HP as an example, HP-UX is an authorized derivative of UNIX that was developed within the bounds that HP's and SCO's license set, but any Linux distribution that HP distributes with their hardware is considered an unauthorized derivative. Their UNIX license doesn't cover this.
[Note In part, the SCO v IBM lawsuit is all about determining just what rights Unix licensees have. Simply put, in the SCO v IBM lawsuit IBM's defense appears to include its interpretation of its Unix license that porting its derived-work Unix code to Linux is allowed under its Unix license and the various extensions, amendments, and side-letter thereto. To date, the SCO v IBM Court has made no rulings on these issues.]
MozillaQuest Magazine: If so, then it would seem that under the set of claims SCO has made regarding SCO-owned code in the GNU-Linux operating system in order for a Linux end-user to not be in violation of SCO's copyrights, the end-user must either buy a Linux product or license from such a first-level Unix licensee or buy a license from SCO. Is this SCO's position?
Blake Stowell: SCO's position is that anyone running Linux for commercial business purposes, based on the 2.4 kernel or later, should contact SCO to obtain a SCO IP License for Linux. Purchasing Linux from a UNIX licensee like HP, IBM, or any other company doesn't absolve them from having to purchase the SCO IP License for Linux.
Blake Stowell: In the case of HP, they are saying, "don't worry about purchasing a SCO IP License for Linux, because if SCO approaches you to purchase one, we will step in and either purchase a license for you or we will protect you from any legal claims that SCO may make against you for not having purchased a license." SCO's position on this is that HP customers can either purchase a license now, or they can have HP pay for this license later. Either way, a license will have to be in place to properly compensate SCO for this intellectual property.
MozillaQuest Magazine: There seems to be some atmosphere in some of the SCO IP coverage that SCO has backed off of its position that users must have/obtain a "SCO IP License for Linux" in order to use the GNU-Linux operating system. However, your statement here seems to be that SCO has not backed off on this issue. Is that correct?
Blake Stowell: Right now, SCO is only selling this license to the Fortune 1000. SCO's sales team is focused right now on these much larger companies. We would still encourage customers from small-to-medium businesses to contact SCO to let us know of their interest in the license and to be assured of receiving the lower price for the license that we are currently offering, but we aren't actually selling or shipping any licenses to that group yet.
MozillaQuest Magazine: So what happens to HP's indemnification promise if SCO is right and HP is wrong and HP customers do need to have a "SCO IP License for Linux" and the costs for HP to back up its indemnification promise run HP into bankruptcy? Are the HP customers that are running an HP Linux product without a "SCO IP License for Linux" on the hook to pay SCO or be sued or whatever?
Blake Stowell: While the financial burden that HP has brought upon themselves with this indemnification program could prove to be expensive for them, I highly doubt there is any danger of such a program plunging them into bankruptcy. If there were any danger of that, I'm sure HP wouldn't have offered such a program. You'll need to ask them this question.
MozillaQuest Magazine: What happens if HP defaults on its Linux indemnification promise? Would not HP's Linux product indemnification program need to be backed up by some sort of insurance carrier or underwriter in order to be rock solid?
Blake Stowell: Sounds like a great question for HP. I can't speak for them.
We did ask HP's Elizabeth Phillips about these issues. She said there is nothing in the way of a trust fund, bond, insurance carrier, or underwriter to back up HP's indemnification promises. Additionally, she said that HP is a very large company with some $70-billion annual revenues and therefore could handle its Linux-product indemnification responsibilities.
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