SCO Cuts Second IBM Unix License

Two months after pulling the plug on Big Blue's Unix System V for AIX, SCO terminated its contract for IBM's Sequent software.

In the latest move of its copyright offensive over Unix, the SCO Group Inc. on Wednesday gave final notice to IBM Corp. that SCO had terminated the Unix System V contract for IBMs Sequent software.

Although SCO said it had notified IBM in writing almost two months ago that it would terminate its contract, it maintained IBM failed to offer any solution to resolve the infringement. According to SCO, now neither IBM nor its customers has the right to use the Dynix/ptx product designed by Sequent Computer Systems, which IBM acquired in July 1999.

The Sequent move marks the second phase of SCOs legal maneuver against Big Blue; in June terminated IBMs right to use or distribute its Unix-based AIX operating system.


SCO said that IBM/Sequent had contributed about 148 files, or 168,276 lines, of "direct" Unix code to the Linux 2.4 and 2.5 kernels—in violation of the original System V contract, which prohibited the transfer of ownership of the code to third parties.

In an interview, Chris Sontag, senior vice president and general manager of SCO source, said that the 148 files did not represent a final tally of the allegedly infringing code. "Im not sure its ever a final tally until weve gone though every possible thing," he said.

According to SCO, the code IBM allegedly contributed to the Linux kernels contains different examples of three different types of copyright infringement: literal, or exact line-by-line copies; derivative, or snippets of code that are either rearranged or scattered about; and non-literal infringement, or ideas that are suggestive of the infringed work.

An example of non-literal infringement, Sontag suggested, might be a "Harry Potter"-esque female witch named Henrietta Popov who attends a school for girls, flying around on a fiddle with a mark on her cheek.

SCO, of Lindon, Utah, has found 80 lines of contributed code in the Linux kernel that it said directly infringe the System V copyright. Roughly half of an additional 150 lines of code also contain code that directly infringes, Sontag said.

Sontag said the additional notification was necessary because of differing contractual terms for "curing" the alleged infringement: sixty days for Sequent and 100 days for Armonk, N.Y.-based IBMs AIX division. He said the allegedly infringing code will remain under a nondisclosure agreement until any potential trial, where it could remain under seal even then. "I honestly dont know," Sontag said. "We havent decided."

IBM this month countersued SCO, claiming that SCO is violating the GNU General Public License (GPL); that SCO improperly revoked IBMs AIX license, since it needed Novells permission to do so; and that SCO is infringing on IBM patents with four of its products.