SCO to argue General Public Licence invalid

The wacky wacky world of corporate lawyers

By Inquirer staff
The Inquirer

August 14,  2003

SCO will attempt to win its $3 billion case against IBM by arguing that the General Public Licence (GPL) is invalid.

That's what a pleader at legal practice Boies Schiller and Flexner is telling the Wall Street Journal today.

The GPL licence allows software and work derived from it to be copied by anyone at no charge.

But according to today's WSJ, quoting lawyer Mark Heise, the GPL is pre-empted by US federal copyright law.

How does that work then? According to Heise, federal law only lets people make a single backup copy of software, and that makes the GPL void under US law.

Seems like a bloody flimsy argument to us, but in the topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland world of law, who knows what characters might suddenly turn into wild cards?

In effect, Heise's argument seems to be that you have to have copyright on software even if you insist that your software is not copyrighted. D'oh.

Of course GPL software is copyright and only public domain works, apparently, lack copyright protection, maybe. The GPL specifically makes use of copyright holders' authority to grant the right to copy authorisations.

Effectively, GPL does not remove the copyright of the original author, it instead allows the work to be freely distributed as long as the distributions and works derived from them are also made available under the licence.

If SCO's pleaders win this one, then surely it is guilty of massive copyright infringement too? And if they do, then surely it must apply to BSD and Apache style licences as well?

Has the whole world gone stark staring bonkers? [Yes. Ed.]


Copyright 2003