SCO Stays on the Attack

CEO Darl McBride threatens to start suing enterprise Linux users within 90 days for copyright infringement.

The SCO group is increasing its attacks on the Linux community, as CEO Darl McBride threatened last week to start suing enterprise Linux users within 90 days for copyright infringement.

But McBride also offered an olive branch of sorts, announcing that SCO planned to send large Linux shops information about steps that can be taken to avoid a lawsuit.

SCO in May sent 1,500 of the worlds largest enterprises warning letters about their Linux use, but the latest message is that they are now on notice about possible legal action.

SCO and its attorneys, led by David Boies, managing partner of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, of Armonk, N.Y., will be basing at least part of any case on provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which covers software copyrights.

"Now were going to the other side of the playing field and opening up the part that has to do with copyright inside of Linux," McBride said in an interview here at the Computer Digital Expo. "Were not going to go out and sue a thousand companies on Day One. Well start off, well get a domino and well go from there."

SCO has a short list of targets, and Boies and the legal team will be deciding the details of the lawsuits. McBride said that among the items in dispute is Unix System V code, as well as copyrighted code included in the 1994 settlement between Unix System Laboratories Inc. and Berkeley Software Design Inc., which SCO acquired in 1995 from Novell Inc.

The copyright claims are separate from SCOs legal claims in its high-profile lawsuit against IBM, in which it is alleging that IBM violated contractual terms of SCOs Unix license and contributed derivative works to the open-source community and Linux.

Some members of the open-source community are seeing this latest move as an acknowledgment that SCOs threats against Linux users have so far failed and as an indication that few are actually buying the Unix license SCO has offered that will protect them from legal liability for the use of Linux.

Enterprise users contacted by eWEEK agreed, saying they remain opposed to paying any license fees to SCO for their use of Linux. Two of the users, one based in Atlanta and the other in Chicago, said the SCO threats had not and would not deter them from continuing to roll out a Linux strategy and implementation. The users requested anonymity.

SCO Senior Vice President Chris Sontag declined to say how many enterprises have bought the companys license so far but said it is expanding its Linux intellectual property licensing options. Along with the one-time license it already is offering, currently priced at a discounted rate of $699, SCO will also offer yearly licenses for companies that want low-cost options and that might be unsure if they will be using Linux for the long term. Pricing for the license will be about $120 per year, Sontag said.

SCOs McBride is also taking aim at Novell, which announced this month its intent to acquire SuSE Linux AG. McBride said SCO is considering legal action against Novell once it completes the SuSE acquisition. He said SCO has a noncompete agreement with Novell from the time it purchased the Unix System V code from Novell.

SCO Director Blake Stowell said here that the noncompete claim comes from wording in both the asset purchase agreement and in the license-back agreement between SCO and Novell. But Novell spokesman Bruce Lowry, in San Francisco, denied that any noncompete provision existed.