The SCO Group, which is involved in a protracted legal battle against IBM and is threatening lawsuits against corporate Linux users, on Thursday moved to respond to some of the criticisms of its legal claims.
In an open letter by Darl McBride, SCOs chief executive officer, provided a view on the key issue of U.S. copyright law versus the GNU GPL (General Public License). McBride warned that the current legal controversies will rage for at least another 18 months, until its original case against IBM goes to trial.
In the letter he said the Lindon, Utah-based SCO asserts that the GPL, under which Linux is distributed, violates the United States Constitution and U.S. copyright and patent laws. “We believe that adoption and use of the GPL by significant parts of the software industry was a mistake.”
“The positions of the Free Software Foundation and Red Hat [Inc.] against proprietary software are ill-founded and are contrary to our system of copyright and patent laws. We believe that responsible corporations throughout the IT industry have advocated use of the GPL without full analysis of its long-term detriment to our economy,” he said.
“We are confident that these corporations will ultimately reverse support for the GPL, and will pursue a more responsible direction,” McBride said in the letter.
The Free Software Foundation has repeatedly criticized SCOs legal positions. The groups general counsel, Eben Moglen, recently described SCOs position as “desperate.”
For its part, Red Hat in August fired a warning shot at SCO with a pair of legal actions aimed at disarming SCOs claims of copyright violation over Linux.
McBride went on to say in his letter that the U.S. Congress had authorized legal action against copyright violators under the Copyright Act and its most recent amendment, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
SCO intends to use the DMCA to sue some corporate Linux users, announcing earlier this month that it plans to start suing enterprise Linux users within 90 days for copyright infringement.
SCO intends to “fully protect its rights granted under these Acts against all who would use and distribute our intellectual property for free, and would strip out copyright management information from our proprietary code, use it in Linux, and distribute it under the GPL,” McBride said in the letter.
“We take these actions secure in the knowledge that our system of copyright laws is built on the foundation of the U.S. Constitution and that our rights will be protected under law.
“We do so knowing that the voices of thousands of open source developers who believe software should be free cannot prevail against the U.S. Congress and voices of seven U.S. Supreme Court justices who believe that the motive of profit is the engine that ensures the progress of science,” McBride said.
Going on to attack the Free Software Foundation and those software developers around the world who did not believe in the approach to copyright protection mandated by Congress, McBride said that over the past 20 years, the Foundation and others in the open source software movement “have set out to actively and intentionally undermine the U.S. and European systems of copyrights and patents.
“Leaders of the FSF have spent great efforts, written numerous articles and sometimes enforced the provisions of the GPL as part of a deeply held belief in the need to undermine or eliminate software patent and copyright laws,” he said.
The software license adopted by the GPL was called “copyleft” by its authors, because the GPL had the effect of requiring free and open access to Linux (and other) software code and prohibits any proprietary use thereof. As a result, the GPL was exactly opposite in its effect from the “copyright” laws adopted by the US Congress and the European Union, McBride said.
This stance against intellectual property laws had been adopted by several companies in the software industry, most notably Red Hat. According to McBride, Red Hats position was that current U.S. intellectual property law “impedes innovation in software development” and that “software patents are inconsistent with open source/free software.”
But SCO took the opposite position, McBride said, believing that copyright and patent laws adopted by the U.S. Congress and the European Union were critical to the further growth and development of the $186 billion global software industry, and to the technology business in general.
In taking this position, SCO had been attacked by Free Software Foundation, Red Hat and many software developers who support their efforts to eliminate software patents and copyrights. “Personal threats abound. At times the nature of these attacks is breathtaking—the emotions are obscuring the very clear and important legal issues SCO has raised,” he said.
“SCO is confident that the legal underpinning of our arguments is sound. We understand that the litigation process is never easy for any party involved. Our stance on this issue has made SCO very unpopular with some.
“But we believe that we will prevail through the legal system, because our position is consistent with the clear legal authority set down by US Congress, the US Supreme Court and the European Union,” he concluded.