The SCO Group has been threatening corporate Linux users with legal action unless they obtain a license for its intellectual property, but until now, businesses have been unable to buy that license.
The Lindon, Utah, company last week began selling its SCO Intellectual Property License for Linux, a run-time license that lets buyers use the companys intellectual property that is contained in Linux distributions, company officials told eWEEK. SCO, which is suing IBM for more than $3 billion and says Linux is an illegal derivative of Unix, announced the license last month. The license protects customers using Linux 2.4 and Linux 2.5 kernels from infringing on SCO intellectual property rights, officials said.
Despite the availability of the new license, some Linux users have been unable to obtain one—or, in some cases, even inquire about it. Linux reseller Gary Sandine, chief technology officer at Los Alamos Computers, in Los Alamos, N.M., which owns and ships many GNU Linux computers, said that despite numerous calls to SCO, he has been unable to talk directly to a salesperson.
"I have called SCO three times, and each time, an operator took my contact info and said I would get a call back. But I have heard nothing. The operator said there were legal concerns that have held up the release of the licenses," Sandine said. "I was told that as soon as the concerns are resolved and the licenses are released for purchase, the sales staff will begin returning calls."
SCO Director Blake Stowell said the company is willing to negotiate pricing, especially for site- and volume-licensing users. Stowell said there has been a delay in issuing the licenses. "Since we announced that the license was available, we have been taking orders from various companies and customers interested in purchasing them," he said. "As of Tuesday [Sept. 2], we actually began making the license available. Selling it and mailing it to someone is not something weve actually done as yet, but as of today we are able to do that."
Stowell said SCO was careful in crafting the license to avoid giving users the impression that "we were giving them a Unix license with carte-blanche availability to do whatever they wanted to with the code." SCO also wants customers to be aware that the license is a binary, run-time-only license to the Unix code found in Linux. It does not give them the right to change that code or contribute it to other programs, Stowell said.
SCO got more than 900 calls the first week after announcing the licensing program, Stowell said. Of those, 300 were serious inquiries that could immediately be followed up on, he said, adding that he did not have the figure for all the calls received to date. Some calls were from large companies, but none were Fortune 500-size companies, he said. And while Stowell said its too early to discuss legal action against companies running Linux without a license, he said SCO wont be shy about it, either. "[While] we are not hellbent on suing someone, we are willing to take that step against any company that is not willing to comply with our copyrights by taking out a license," he said.
Los Alamos Computers Sandine said that given the lack of information available, it would be "irresponsible of any business owner to send $699 per CPU to SCO."
"SCO must understand how theres no way anyone will send them anything until it comes to court," Sandine said. "Thats why I want to speak to a sales rep and ask questions." Major Linux vendors such as Red Hat Inc. and SuSE Linux, as well as the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source Development Lab, back Sandines view. They say Linux users have no reason to buy a license and should refrain from doing so.
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