IBM Goes After SCOs Copyright Claims

IBM is finally attacking SCO's copyright claims in court in the latest chapter of the open-source saga.

In a move that was long expected, IBM requested a Declaratory Judgment of Noninfringement (PDF link) on the copyright issues in its case with The SCO Group Inc.

If the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City grants the judgment, SCOs copyright claims would be thrown out. As Pamela Jones writes on her well-known SCO legal news site, Groklaw, "This means IBM believes SCOs case is so weak on this copyright infringement claim that they can toss it overboard."

Besides claiming that it has not violated any of SCOs copyrights, IBM also used the motion, filed March 26, to ask that SCOs claims be dismissed on the grounds that SCO, as a Linux vendor that has released code under the GPL (GNU Public License), cannot now add new restrictions on the Linux source code.

The motion comes on the heels of SCOs taking legal action against Linux-using companies AutoZone Inc. and DaimlerChrysler AG. SCO CEO McBride said at the time that the companys Linux copyright claims didnt matter in these cases, but he eventually said the courts would decide if the copyright issues were relevant.

In addition, Novell Inc. is asserting that it, and not SCO, actually holds the Unix copyrights. If Novell were to win its case, the ruling also would render SCOs copyright claims moot.

Similar arguments have been made against SCOs copyright cases in public forums for months. "This is a really obvious move," said Stacey Quandt, principal analyst at Quandt Analytics.

But the move does not mean that the SCO-IBM legal saga will be ending shortly. The discovery process first must run its course, and that alone could take years. Only then could the judge grant the motion.

Quandt said she thinks that win, lose or draw, open source has changed forever. "This isnt the end of these kinds of actions. There is a potential that other companies will follow SCO in suing open-source vendors and users.

"Companies will be evaluating risk management for Linux and open source," she said. "In turn, this means that businesses that develop indemnification plans [such as Open Source Risk Management] or mitigate copyright risks in software [such as Black Duck Software Inc.] will do well."

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