SCO Throws Gauntlet on Linux, Suspends Sales

The owner of the Unix operating system warns commercial Linux users that they may be liable for using Linux.

The SCO Group went on the warpath against Linux Wednesday, issuing a warning that "Linux is an unauthorized derivative of Unix and that legal liability for the use of Linux may extend to commercial users."

The company, which is pursuing a $1 billion lawsuit against IBM for allegedly improperly including SCO's Unix intellectual property in Linux, announced Monday that it has suspended all future sales of Linux "until the attendant risks with Linux are better understood and properly resolved."

The company said it issued the warning based on its findings of illegal inclusions of SCO Unix intellectual property in Linux.

"SCO is taking this important step because there are intellectual property issues with Linux," said Chris Sontag, senior vice president and general manager of SCOsource, an arm of the company recently formed to license Unix System V libraries. "When SCO's own Unix software code is being illegally copied into Linux, we believe we have an obligation to educate commercial users of the potential liability that could rest with them for using such software to run their business. We feel so strongly about this issue that we are suspending sales and distribution of SCO Linux until these issues are resolved."

SCO has also issued a letter from SCO President and CEO Darl McBride to Linux customers, warning them, "similar to analogous efforts underway in the music industry, we are prepared to take all actions necessary to stop the ongoing violation of our intellectual property or other rights."

The letter notes, "Many Linux contributors were originally Unix developers who had access to Unix source code distributed by AT&T and were subject to confidentiality agreements, including confidentiality of the methods and concepts involved in software design. We have evidence that portions of Unix System V software code have been copied into Linux and that additional other portions of Unix System V software code have been modified and copied into Linux, seemingly for the purposes of obfuscating their original source."

The letter continues, "As a consequence of Linux's unrestricted authoring process, it is not surprising that Linux distributors do not warrant the legal integrity of the Linux code provided to customers. Therefore legal liability that may arise from the Linux development process may also rest with the end user.

"We believe that Linux infringes on our Unix intellectual property and other rights. We intend to aggressively protect and enforce these rights."

SCO has raised the hackles of members of the Linux community for its stance, and has sought to link a recent denial of service (DoS) attack against its network with members of the Linux community "who are hostile toward SCO for asserting its legal rights," in the words of company spokesman Blake Stowell.

"SCO's actions may prove unpopular with those who wish to advance or otherwise benefit from Linux as a free software system for use in enterprise applications," McBride said in his letter. "However, our property and contract rights are important and valuable; not only to us, but to every individual and every company whose livelihood depends on the continued viability of intellectual and intangible property rights in a digital age."

SCO's lawsuit against IBM came two months after it unveiled SCOsource, a new branch of the company focused on licensing its intellectual property, specifically the Unix System V libraries for Linux.

"SCOsource is just one small part of what SCO is doing," Sontag told internetnews.com at the beginning of May. "The majority of the company is working on next generation versions of the UNIX operating system and on Linux products."

SCO sued IBM for allegedly misusing trade secrets after IBM walked away from a joint project with SCO which sought to create an Intel Itanium version of SCO's UnixWare. IBM scrapped the effort, dubbed Project Monterey, when it decided to focus its attention on Linux rather than Unix. But SCO maintained that IBM's rapid strides with Linux were built on trade secrets it garnered from Project Monterey -- especially the integration of UNIX System V libraries with Linux, which allows the Linux platform to run many Unix applications.

"Things came to a head at LinuxWorld, and we decided our only choice was to file a suit," Sontag said.

"Our full intent is to see this through all the way," Sontag said. "We're well resourced to be able to do that."






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