SCO Cant Win

Linux & Open-Source Center Editor Steven Vaughan-Nichols believes that SCO shouldn't win and can't win in the courtroom.

Editors Note: There are two sides to every story, including the battle over Linux. To help crystallize the issues, we asked two of our columnists to take extreme positions to help clarify the upcoming court battles. Steven Vaughan-Nichols pro-Linux commentary follows. Dont miss the other side though. Rob Enderle takes the pro-SCO position in his analysis of why SCO must win.

I think The SCO Group deserves every penny theyre asking for… if they were right, but theyre not. Ive been following SCO as a writer since the late 80s, and Ive been using its products for even longer. When Caldera came out with one of the first commercial Linux distributions, I was there too. In short, I know this company and its IP claims simply dont hold up.

If SCO had just gone after IBM on contract terms, because of how IBM handled the attempt to bring AIX 5L to Intel (Project Monterey) that would be a different story. From what I know of that deal, I think SCO was treated shabbily.

SCOs owners, the Canopy Group, should have, in my humble opinion, kept Ransom Love as CEO and continued to support Linux. Had they done so then SCO, with its close Novell ties, would have been acquired by Novell-not SuSE. $200+ million down the drain for Canopy.

As it is, the ownership decided they wanted to shift gears from being an operating system company to one that tries to make money from lawsuits. Now, personally, I dont like this. Id rather make things than haul people to court. But those businesses can work. In fact, there are companies that do nothing but acquire patents, wait until someone has created something that may infringe on those patents and then swoop in like vultures.

In SCOs case, however, the company is trying to create a house of cards. If any one of those cards shifts, the entire litigious structure falls.

Darl McBride, SCOs CEO, talks about SCO being defending the rights of intellectual property like the RIAA. Its not. SCOs IP claims are much weaker. We know a song belongs to an artist and a label. SCOs copyright claims are much murkier.

First, SCO has to establish that it actually owns the copyright to Unix System V code. Novell says it doesnt. The agreements transferring the IP rights, to my non-lawyer eyes, dont clearly give SCO all the rights they need to make its sweeping copyright claims.

OK, lets suppose that the courts agree that SCO, not Novell, owns the IP and all the rights to control how its used. Next, SCO has to prove that IBM, or other companies, took code from Unix and placed it in Linux. I dont see how they can do that. SCO has never presented a shred of significant evidence that there is any Unix code in Linux. Besides, we do know for a fact that SCO was trying to get Linux and Unix to work together. If any code duplication is found, SCO could have been the one doing the copying.

SCO was working on this even before Caldera bought out SCOs Unix division and intellectual property. Specifically, SCO added Linux compatibility to its Unix properties with operating system packages like UnixWares Linux Kernel Personality (LKP). The LKP enables UnixWare, one of SCOs Unix operating systems, to run Linux binaries.

So SCO was adding Linux functionality, Linux code, into its own Unix products, and was also considering bringing Linux functionality to its older OpenServer Unix. Given SCOs own reasoning, could all this Linux functionality be added to Unix without introducing Linux code into Unix? I think not.

Next Page: Look at the history.