OSDL Offers Answers on SCO-IBM Lawsuit

By Bill Claybrook

August 18, 2003

Last week the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) released a Q&A paper written by technology law and IP expert Lawrence Rosen. The OSDL-sponsored paper asks and answers questions about SCO's lawsuit against IBM and what, if any, threats pertain to Linux users. The paper is the best description I've come across addressing the legal issues associated with this lawsuit. It will help Linux users evaluate what they should do in case SCO tries to demand license fees from companies that use Linux.

The paper is so well written and easy to understand that I recommend that you obtain a copy (it's on OSDL's Web site) and read it in its entirety. The important questions that Rosen answers include:

  1. Is this a lawsuit against Linux?
  2. How is Linux involved?
  3. Does SCO have a copyright on Linux?
  4. Can SCO demand license fees to use Linux?
  5. What is my risk if I continue to use Linux?

Rosen essentially says that this is not a lawsuit against Linux, but rather a lawsuit by SCO against IBM over money. The Linux operating system itself, and its contributors, distributors, and users are not parties to the lawsuit and cannot be directly affected by it. Rosen says that SCO can demand license fees from Linux users, but that doesn't mean that they have to pay the fees.

He makes another important point around the attempts by SCO to coerce users into paying fees. For example, suppose SCO wins its case against IBM and IBM pays damages to compensate for the use of SCO's confidential code in Linux. Can SCO then turn to Linux users and ask for the same type of damages all over again? Rosen says this would be "double-dipping," and it is not fair in law or in equity. Courts would not normally allow SCO to double-dip.

1:33 ET

Copyright 2003