SCO shows more code

June 2, 2004

On the surface, the declaration of Todd. M. Shaugnessy [] filed by IBM in the SCO case looks like fairly boring stuff. It consists of a long list of exhibits filed by IBM. Some of those exhibits, however, have not been seen before, and some of those warrant a look. In particular, exhibit 28 covers SCO's answers to the motions to compel discovery. SCO has now "shown the code," and we can see what the company is claiming.

The first part of the declaration covers code contributed from AIX and Dynix to Linux. In the former case, SCO now contents itself with listing the JFS filesystem. From Dynix, SCO notes the read-copy-update technique and some NUMA support code. The broader claim over Linux's SMP code appears to have quietly gone away.

IBM keeps asking SCO to identify the specific lines of System V code which, SCO claims, IBM contributed to Linux. SCO continues to evade that question. The company did, under duress, provide listings of parts of AIX and Dynix that, it claims, derive from Unix. The bulk of the AIX listing is the curses and terminfo libraries; no kernel files are listed there. For Dynix, some kernel files are listed (along with the source of utilities like awk), but there appears to be no intersection with the Dynix files that, SCO claims, IBM contributed to Linux. SCO says that doesn't matter:

In fact, SCO steadfastly maintains that this item is not relevant to this litigation nor is it likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The main issue in this case is whether IBM has breached its contract with SCO because it contributed or otherwise disposed of a part of AIX or Dynix/ptx to others in contravention of the terms of the license agreement.

In other words, there is not actually any SCO-owned code in IBM's contributions to Linux, but SCO claims control over those contributions anyway. Nothing particularly new there.

Finally, and, perhaps, most interestingly, SCO has included a set of other files (exhibit 28-G) for which it claims ownership. The first part of this list consists of the Linux streams (LiS) patch [] which has never been part of the mainline kernel. Interestingly, the LiS distribution was hosted at Caldera [] for some time. But the company formerly known as Caldera would rather forget that now; the company claims, in its filing, the LiS has not appeared in "any Linux-related product distributed by SCO."

The Free Software Foundation recently claimed [] that the reason SCO went after the kernel and not the FSF was the latter's copyright assignment policies. So the FSF should be interested to see that SCO claims rights over significant chunks of the glibc and binutils packages. In particular, SCO claims ownership of just about anything which touches the ELF executable file format. Many tens of thousands of lines of FSF-owned code are claimed by SCO. Some of the claims are amusing in typical SCO fashion; for example, the exhibit lists elf/interp.c [] from glibc, which consists of the copyright header and exactly one line of code:

const char __invoke_dynamic_linker__[] __attribute__ ((section (".interp")))

SCO has also added claims to the ELF code in the 2.4.21 kernel, along with the SYSV filesystem and the SYSV interprocess communication code.

SCO acknowledges that it distributed all of the above code (except for LiS), but claims it was unaware that "its intellectual property" was present at the time. One might well question how, if the SCO group claims to own the ELF file format, it could be unaware that it was distributing ELF-related code. ELF is, after all, the fundamental file format used by Linux. But one should not be surprised by this sort of claim from the SCO Group.

The interesting question, instead, is whether the SCO Group will attempt to pursue its claims to the ELF code. These claims could be used to launch attacks against the FSF, any Linux distributor, or even any of the BSD variants. The last thing SCO needs is yet another lawsuit, but that has not stopped this company before. As SCO's claims against the Linux kernel fall apart, its management may well be tempted to cast a wider net.

Copyright 2004

ELF is an open standard

(Posted Jun 2, 2004 15:25 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens)

Elf is an open standard promoted by Intel, and is a result of the Tools Interface Standards committee which had multiple company participation. No doubt USL or its successor was involved. The text is here []. That document is what has generally been used by people who have developed systems that could link and execute ELF.

This is another area where it would not be possible to show copyright infringement as the document was a published standard made available for all to implement. Not that this has stopped SCO from filing nuisance suits.