SCO’s Legal Wrangling: Aberdeen’s Perspective

Bill Claybrook [ ]
Research Director,
Linux and Open Source, Unix, and Grid Computing

June 16, 2003 - SCO’s lawsuit against IBM is intensifying, as SCO asserts its ownership of the System V source code. SCO warns that other lawsuits are likely unless independent hardware vendors (IHV) and others pay for the license. What’s your view on this situation?

It appears that there at least two ways that System V licensees, as well as those who have not licensed System V, can risk legal confrontation with SCO.

The first is the copying of code from System V into Linux. I was one of three analysts to whom SCO showed the System V source code that it alleges was copied into Linux by a large IHV (SCO said that the independent hardware vendor was not IBM or Sun). The code I was shown was from a well-known Unix .c file. Based on what SCO showed me, the alleged copied code and comments amounted to about 80 lines, but this is only one of several instances that SCO alleges that an IHV directly copied System V source.

Another way companies may risk bringing SCO’s legal hammer down upon them is by placing derivative code into Linux. Derivative code, as defined by SCO, is extensions to the Unix kernel or code written to run in the System V kernel. The SCO-IBM lawsuit partly concerns derivative code. SCO claims that IBM’s release of derivative code to Linux is a violation of its contract with SCO. IBM claims that it owns the derivative code and can do anything with it that it wants.

Aberdeen does not see the IBM suit as a knockout punch for Linux, even if SCO should happen to win in court. Instead, the lawsuit is a signal that some changes may need to occur in the way Linux is developed while at the same time preserving the significant benefits and advantages of open source. For a more in-depth examination of this topic, read my recent Perspective, SCO-IBM Lawsuit: Time for Some Changes [ ].

Copyright 2003