Does SCO's Code Prove its Case

By Bill Claybrook

June 16, 2003

In the past week there have been many news stories about SCO and I have been quoted in several of them - I was one of two or three analysts that saw some of the code that SCO alleges was copied by a large independent hardware vendor (IHV) [ ]. One of the problems inherent in the SCO-IBM lawsuit is proving the flow of code. Questions abound as to whether or not Linux came from Unix, did some of the code that is in Unix System V come from BSD 4.1 or 4.2, etc.

After meeting with SCO and looking at the alleged copied code, I did some independent research. It turns out that Sequent, which was a BSD-based company, gave code back to System V, and apparently other vendors who had source licenses with USL, Novell, or SCO also put code into System V. I was told that the NUMA code developed at Sequent before it was acquired by IBM, was developed in the BSD kernel, not System V. So there is a question as to where the "derived" NUMA code that SCO claims that IBM donated to Linux came from --- BSD or System V.

The lawsuit will have to settle the case of the derived code, and it will not be easy given that code was passed around, so to speak. In the early 1980's when I was a Unix kernel developer at a startup, EnMasse Computer Corp., we purchased the source rights to Unix for $250,000 and could hack it up any way that we wanted, at least that is my recollection. But we had to pay royalties for shipped products. We were also not permitted to circulate the source code. Some of the code that we shipped, an OLTP system, was developed in the kernel, and under SCO's claim this would have fallen under the category of "derivative works." Even though I was the architect of the product and director of software development, I don't recall anyone saying that we did not own the code that we developed.

My opinion is that the lawsuit is a distraction. While Linux may be injured a bit if the case drags on for a year, most of the people I have spoken to in the industry do not believe that SCO has a chance of winning. Therefore, users are not drifting away from buying Linux. Unfortunately, SCO has taken itself out of the Linux business, but it was never making any real money on Linux anyway.

The UnitedLinux play always was basically a SuSE [ ] play and even more so now. UnitedLinux LLC, with only three real members left, may be a thing of the past. So nothing has really changed yet (except SCO's shares, which have shot up to around $10 -to $11 dollars per share). Red Hat [ ] and SuSE are still the dominant Linux distributors, and people continue to wonder why Red Hat, with the dominant Linux market share among distributors, is not generating serious revenue.

 4:15 ET

Copyright 2003