Prominent members of the open-source community are angry that The SCO Group is including open-source technology in its products while attacking the community and the license that governs its work.
The latest controversy follows the SCO announcement last week here at its Forum event that it has included Samba 3 in its latest OpenServer product. Samba is free open-source software that allows Linux and Unix servers to interoperate with Microsoft Corp. Windows clients.
Samba is developed and distributed under the GNU GPL (General Public License) in the same way as the Linux kernel code is used; SCO has targeted the Linux code in its intellectual property lawsuits and license fees.
“We observe that SCO is both attacking the GPL on the one hand and benefiting from the GPL on the other hand. SCO cant have it both ways,” said Jeremy Allison, Samba lead developer, in San Jose, Calif. “SCO has a clear choice: Either pledge not to use any open-source/free software in any of their products, or actively participate in the open-source/free software movement and reap the benefits.
“For SCO to continue to use open-source/free software while attacking others for using it is the epitome of hypocrisy,” Allison said.
Linux creator Linus Torvalds was less polite. “The SCO people seem to have a few problems keeping the truth straight; but if there is something they know all about, its hypocrisy,” Torvalds said in an interview with eWEEK. “While they are attacking the GPL and open-source licenses, they are happily still using Samba on their platform.”
SCOs critics are also becoming more vocal about the Lindon, Utah, companys strict NDA (nondisclosure agreement) surrounding the offending code. Linux luminary Eric Raymond, president of the Open Source Initiative, and Jeff Gerhardt, an active member of the community, are leading the charge in this regard.
Next page: SCOs position on the NDA.
SCOs Position on the
Gerhardt contends SCO has no intention of disclosing the code. If it did, the open-source community could refute SCOs claims that its Unix code was illegally incorporated into Linux, and thus there would be no basis for SCOs $3 billion lawsuit against IBM and its threats to sue Linux users for damages, he said.
SCO Senior Vice President Chris Sontag said that while it could possibly address the issue of letting people see the Unix Source V code under a less-restrictive NDA, there is a certain level of NDA that has to be in place, and it might not be possible to come to an agreement.
“But there are lots of derivative code that IBM has contributed. That is identified and visible today, and you dont need an NDA to be aware of it,” Sontag said. “The community should start by removing all of that and removing all knowledge they had of that code and not use any of it in any form to develop a successor for it. They can start work on that right now.”
But given the furor that erupted after Sontag showed a snippet of the alleged copied Unix System V code in Linux last week, SCO is unlikely to ease the NDA terms soon.
After Sontag showed the code at the SCO Forum, experts such as Bruce Perens, an open-source evangelist and former senior Linux and open-source strategist for Hewlett-Packard Co., told eWEEK that the code was copyrighted by AT&T Corp., whose Unix rights were later transferred to SCO, but also released under the BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) license, which would allow it to be included in Linux.
Torvalds said the code SCO showed represents an algorithm that can be used to manage a computers memory, is 30 years old and has been documented several times.
“The piece of code … had already been removed in [Linux Kernel] 2.6.x, and not because of copyright issues, but because developers complained about how ugly it was,” Torvalds said. “What I find interesting is how it shows that the SCO people are having such a hard time with the truth. Theyve said several times that the code they have found is not historic Unix code and not BSD code. … Theyve claimed several times how its modern System V code that they have clear ownership of. Thats despite massive proof to the contrary, going back three decades.”
“Until this comes to court, its really going to be their word against ours,” said SCO Director Blake Stowell.
Mark Heise, a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, the primary law firm representing SCO, maintains that even if removing the offending code is a workable solution, that would only resolve the issue on a going-forward basis and would do nothing to address the fact that the infringing material has been in Linux since 2001.
“Millions of servers have been using it, and I havent heard anybody talking about what to do about the past infringements and how we will be compensated,” Heise said. “The GPL states that violators of that license are terminated from distribution and use until any issue is resolved. Would the Linux distribution stop shipping until any such fix was implemented?”
The legal rhetoric has not diminished interest in Unix or Linux, some users say. Boyd Gerber, CEO of professional services and consulting group Zenez, in Midvale, Utah, said his Linux customers are adopting a wait-and-see attitude.
“Customers are still looking for the best solution to meet their needs. For those who want to use lower-cost hardware, the SCO Unix solution is still attractive,” Gerber said.