Paper Casts Doubts on SCOs Copyright Claims

Columbia University law professor and Free Software Foundation general counsel Eben Moglen points out that SCO's copyright woes could make it almost impossible for SCO to go after Linux users.

On Feb. 10, the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), an industry consortium dedicated to accelerating Linuxs adoption, published Columbia University professor and general counsel for the Free Software Foundation Eben Moglens latest position paper on The SCO Groups anti-Linux legal efforts. In this latest document, Moglen focuses on the war over who actually owns Unixs copyrights: Novell Inc. or SCO?

In this paper, Moglen makes two main points. The first is SCO admits that by suing Novell its claim to exclusive ownership of the Unix copyright is in doubt. Moglen argues that no judge would hold an end user liable for intentionally infringing SCO Groups rights when SCO itself has cast doubt on what it owns. Because of this, Moglen believes that potential and present Linux customers have little incentive to purchase a license from SCO and instead will wait for a final decision on who owns the copyrights.

Next, Moglen argues that even after the suit litigation is resolved, regardless of who prevails, customers will still have the right to use the Linux code in question without purchasing a license from either SCO or Novell. Thats because, as Moglen points out, both SCO and Novell, via SuSE Linux, have already distributed the Linux code under the GPL and this license allows licensees to use, modify, copy and distribute the Linux code freely. Thus, Moglen contends, the results of the litigation will have no effect on those rights, and customers will have no obligation to purchase another license from either SCO or Novell.

In a phone interview Tuesday with, Moglen said SCOs efforts to use its supposed Unix copyright against Novell—an issue that SCO is now attempting to also use in its IBM lawsuit—is destined to failure because its a Catch-22. Moglen believes SCO cant pursue any Linux user or distributor because even if it does own the copyright, it gave its copyrighted code away under the GPL for years.

In a statement, Stuart Cohen, OSDL CEO, said: "We see Linux deployments continuing around the world and many prudent customers are choosing to ignore SCOs legal threats until the courts rule, particularly given SCOs admitted uncertainty about its own rights. We believe Professor Moglens paper gives Linux customers, developers and others added peace of mind about the choices they make about Linux."

At the time of this publishing, the SCO Group has yet to respond to requests from on Moglens position paper.