SCO Warns Linux Users of Legal Liability

SCO Group on Wednesday raised the stakes in its battle to prevent what it sees as the illegal and unauthorized use of its Unix technologies in the Linux operating system.

The SCO Group on Wednesday significantly raised the stakes in its battle to prevent what it sees as the illegal and unauthorized use of its Unix technologies in the Linux operating system, warning that legal liability for the use of Linux could extend to commercial users.

This is a turnabout for SCO, which said in March after announcing a $1 billion lawsuit against IBM that the case "has nothing to do with Linux or the open-source community."

"This case is not about the Linux community or us going after them. This is not about the open-source community or about UnitedLinux, of whom we are members and partners…This case is and is only about IBM and the contractual violations that we are alleging IBM has made and that we are going to enforce," Darl McBride, CEO and president of the SCO Group, stressed at that time.

But, on Wednesday, Chris Sontag, a senior vice president at SCO, said that until the "attendant risks with Linux are better understood and properly resolved, the company will also suspend all of its future sales of the Linux operating system. SCO is taking this important step because there are intellectual property issues with Linux," he said

"When SCOs own Unix software code is being illegally copied into Linux, we believe we have an obligation to educate commercial users of the potential liability that could rest with them for using such software to run their business. We feel so strongly about this issue that we are suspending sales and distribution of SCOLinux until these issues are resolved," Sontag said.

But SCO will continue to support existing SCO Linux and Caldera OpenLinux customers and "hold them harmless from any SCO intellectual property issues regarding SCO Linux and Caldera OpenLinux products," Sontag said.

This move also raises questions about SCOs continued participation in the UnitedLinux consortium. Richard Seibt, the CEO of SuSE Linux AG, in Nuremberg, Germany, already said in March that 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," he said then. SuSE could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.