SCO Riles Open-Source Players

Vendor's lawsuit against IBM over UNIX could threaten customers.

The SCO Group is under fire from its partners and others in the Linux and open-source communities for its billion-dollar lawsuit against IBM.

SCO alleges in its lawsuit filed this month in Utah that IBM made "efforts to improperly destroy the economic value of Unix ... to benefit IBMs new Linux services business." IBM spokesman Bill Hughes, in Armonk, N.Y., dismisses the lawsuit as "full of bare allegations with no supporting facts."

IBM and SCO disagree about what took place between them before the suit was filed. Hughes maintains that SCO never approached IBM to raise the complaint or to give advance notice of the lawsuit. "IBM has been openly supporting Linux and open standards for several years, and neither SCO nor any of its predecessors ever expressed these concerns to us," he said.

The comments contradict SCO CEO Darl McBride, who said SCO had been talking to IBM since December and had reached an impasse. Legal action was the only way forward, said McBride, in Lindon, Utah.

McBride has also stressed that the IBM case is not about the Linux community. "This is not about the open-source community or about UnitedLinux. ... This case is only about IBM and the contractual violations that we are alleging IBM has made," he said.

Richard Seibt, CEO of SuSE Linux AG, in Nuremberg, Germany, is disappointed with SCOs legal move, saying that while SuSE agreed that SCO has a right to enforce its intellectual property rights, "we are concerned that these actions are not in the best interest of customers, partners and the Linux community."

Seibt also said SuSE, which partners with SCO in the UnitedLinux distribution coalition, is "re-evaluating [its] relationship with SCO."

"That said, we want to very clearly and unequivocally voice our support of the ideals and goals of UnitedLinux and the Linux community," Seibt said.

Open-source-community activists and consultants are angry about what they see as SCOs baseless legal action. Bruce Perens, in Berkeley, Calif., an open-source consultant and activist who is a former senior global strategist for Linux at Hewlett-Packard Co., said SCO is playing both sides: It is pointing out that its action is not against Linux or the open-source community, yet on the other hand, it is suing one of the largest players in the Linux and open-source communities.

"The Linux and open-source community are not deceived by this. We ... will now never recommend any products created by SCO or Caldera [International Inc.]," Perens said.

Some in the community are worried about what this dissension could mean to open source and the IT industry.

Michael Tiemann, chief technology officer of Red Hat Inc., in Raleigh, N.C., told eWeek at LinuxWorld in January that "every time people get engaged in unproductive arguments, it slows things down. What the IT industry needs today is a direction forward."