Playing Dirty

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-01-05 Print this article Print

Roseland said that SCO is "playing dirty."

"To freely and openly distribute [Linux] code in accordance with and in acceptance of the GPL and then to turn around and say that doing so was a mistake and that it wants all the code back or to at least be paid royalties for it is pure nonsense," he said. "If SCO freely gave away their code via their distribution of Linux, nobody else has any legal obligation to pay them for it."

Another software developer, Kevin Murphy, of The Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia, agreed. SCOs GPL claims are "even weirder than most," said Murphy, who is also the technical lead for a research group that develops software that uses the GPL.

The validity of the GPL rests with its language and the law, not the ruminations or beliefs of its authors or the open-source movement, Murphy added. What SCO, of Lindon, Utah, wants is for the GPL to be held invalid and for all the rights of other open-source copyright holders, except SCO, to be terminated, he said.

"There is no possible scenario that this can happen," Murphy said. "There is no doubt that many in the open-source movement wish that copyright and patent law were substantially different or altogether done away with. It is clear to most of us that intellectual property law has failed and needs to be significantly rethought or eliminated. But, that said, it is still the law of the land."

Still, Murphy said that he believes the GPL is safe. The GPL has survived for years despite the risk that some interest with deep pockets would challenge it, he said. "But, today, it is being defended by lawyers from one of the largest corporations in the world [IBM]," he said. "The GPL is likely to emerge unscathed, and this case will leave it unassailable."

Tim Dion, a software engineer manager at a leading semiconductor equipment manufacturer in San Jose, Calif., who also runs a consulting company called PhiSoft LLC, said McBride seems oblivious to the fact that the GPL is a grant of copyright. The GPL requires copyright law, as enacted by Congress, to protect the works of developers.

"[McBride] fundamentally does not understand that SCO licensed, modified and distributed Linux source code. By doing this, SCO agreed to freely license those works, including the alleged infringing code under the GPL," Dion said.

Next page: Interpretating SCOs interpretation.

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


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