SCO Takes Aim at Linux User Target

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-02-18

SCO Takes Aim at Linux User Target

The SCO Group is standing firm by its commitment to sue an enterprise Linux user, even though it has missed its own self-imposed three-month timeframe for doing so.

Speculation that the Lindon, Utah software firm is set to file suit against a Linux user as early as this week is growing, particularly in the light of comments made by SCO CEO Darl McBride on November 18, 2003, when he told in an interview that his company plans to file at least one lawsuit against a large Linux user within 90 days as part of its effort to expand the scope of its legal battle with the open-source operating system.

The 90-day time period is now up.

However, SCO is not denying that such a lawsuit is imminent. SCO director Blake Stowell on Wednesday declined to comment on the exact timing of its potential lawsuit against an enterprise Linux user, but left no doubt that SCO intends to take such legal action, telling eWeek that SCOs only comment on any end-user lawsuits at this point in time is "stay tuned.

"We are not stating yet when that may take place or with whom it may take place, but you may see something from us in the near future on this," he said.

There has been much speculation about who the likely target would be. In November, reports surfaced that SCO had picked its target: Google, the worlds largest search engine company.

Stowell at that time denied that Google had been singled out, telling eWeek that "we have not yet decided what company we will sue for Unix intellectual property rights. At this time, we dont even have a date for when we will decide except that it will be by the end of our already started 90-day clock."

But he did admit that Mountain View, Calif.-based Google was one of the companies notified by SCO that its use of Linux violated SCOs intellectual property rights, even though the search engine company isnt publicly traded.

SCO has been threatening Linux users since last May, when it sent 1,500 of the worlds largest enterprises warnings letters about their Linux use.

That was followed by other letters warning them of potential legal action and encouraging them to take out a SCO intellectual property license that would indemnify them for their alleged illegal Linux usage.

In August, McBride again warned Linux users that the company had compiled a list of all the large companies with numerous servers running Linux and warned that it would not hesitate to drag them into court if they refused to pay for UnixWare licenses.

McBride told eWeek at that time that there were some 2.5 million servers running Linux and that SCO had "identified by name those companies running many of them. We are in the process of contacting them about coming into compliance and taking a UnixWare license from us. If they refuse to do so, we will sue them directly and see them in court," he said then.

Next Page: Red Hat Bolsters its Case vs. SCO

Red Hat Bolsters its

Case vs. SCO">

Speculation about the possible Linux user to be sued took another turn this week following a filing by open source and Linux vendor Red Hat Inc. to supplement the record in its case against SCO. That filing was first reported on the Groklaw Web site.

In August, Red Hat filed suit in a federal court in Delaware seeking pre-emptive relief against SCO and its claims that the Linux code base has illegally copyrighted Unix code to which SCO now owns the rights.

SCO has sought to have that cased dismissed, saying its legal actions are against IBM and not Red Hat or its customers.

But the latest Red Hat motion disputes that and includes copies of letters that SCO had sent to financial services firm Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. in New York, and Lehmans responses. Lehman is a Red Hat Enterprise Linux customer.

A Red Hat spokesman confirmed that the motion had been filed and that it included letters to and from Lehman, but declined further comment.

A source close to Red Hat said Lehman had not been singled out and its inclusion in the motion to supplement the record certainly did not imply that SCO was considering suing Lehman.

It was more likely that SCO would target an IBM AIX and Linux customer, given the $5 billion lawsuit SCO has filed against Big Blue, the source said.

SCOs Stowell also expressed surprise at the mention of Lehman Brothers as a potential target for its legal action. "This is the very first time I have heard its name brought up by anyone or run by me or anyone at SCO.

"So I dont have any comment on them specifically or any other Linux customer at this point in time," he told eWeek.

But enterprise Linux users have been guaranteed support from most of the vendors and the key industry players in the event they are sued by SCO. The threat of legal action against a Linux user has prompted a spate of indemnification plans from the major vendors.

HP was the first to make such a move in September,, saying it would indemnify its customers against any legal liability from the use of Linux under certain conditions.

That was followed in January by Novell, Inc., of Provo, Utah, and Red Hat, of Raleigh, N.C., which both announced programs to protect their Linux customers.

Novell announced an indemnification program against possible legal actions for SuSE Linux 8 customers that signed an upgrade protection and qualifying technical support contract.

Red Hat launched the Open Source Assurance Plan, which is designed to protect customers Linux investments and ensure they are legally able to continue to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux without interruption.

But IBM is holding firm to its plan to not indemnify its Linux customers. Jim Stallings, the general manager of Linux at IBM, told eWeek in a recent interview that it is not necessary for IBM to indemnify its customers because several layers of protection are already available to them.

"If Im a customer and Ive made a Linux buy decision, I have the two distributors, Red Hat and Novells SuSE Linux, saying they are going to protect me, the customer. The OSDL [Open Source Development Labs Inc.] has also said it is going to protect the customer, and, by the way, IBM is in the OSDLs defense fund, along with Intel [Corp.] and other members.

"So we are all in this. IBMs in court fighting the major fight, were protecting customers through OSDL, while Red Hat and SuSE are also protecting them. If Im a customer, I have layers of protection," Stallings said.

Check out eWEEK.coms Linux & Open Source Center at for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

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