Did SCO Violate the GPL?

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2003-06-10 Print this article Print

Some members of the open-source community are claiming that the SCO Group may have violated the terms of the GNU GPL.

Some members of the open-source community are claiming that the SCO Group may have violated the terms of the GNU GPL (General Public License) by incorporating source code from the Linux kernel into the Linux Kernel Personality feature found in SCO Unix without giving the changes back to the community or displaying copyright notices attributing the code to Linux. A source close to SCO, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told eWEEK that parts of the Linux kernel code were copied into the Unix System V source tree by former or current SCO employees. That could violate the conditions of the GNU GPL, which states that any amendments to open-source code used in a commercial product must be given back to the community and a copyright notice must be displayed attributable to Linux, he said.
The source, who has seen both the Unix System V source code and the Linux source code and who assisted with a SCO project to bring the two kernels closer together, said that SCO "basically re-implemented the Linux kernel with functions available in the Unix kernel to build what is now known as the Linux Kernel Personality (LKP) in SCO Unix."
The LKP is a feature that allows users to run standard Linux applications along with standard Unix applications on a single system using the UnixWare kernel. "During that project we often came across sections of code that looked very similar, in fact we wondered why even variable names were identical. It looked very much like both codes had the same origin, but that was good as the implementation of 95 percent of all Linux system calls on the Unix kernel turned out to be literally one-liners," the source said. Only a handful of system calls—socketcall, ipc and clone—were fairly difficult to implement as they involved the obvious differentiators between Linux and Unix: networking, inter-process communication and kernel threads, the source said.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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