The SCO Group is back on the legal offensive after a brief respite following last week's countersuit by IBM and the opening of a new legal challenge from Red Hat.
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In a webcast yesterday, SCO chief executive officer and president Darl McBride claimed that "industry support from partners is strengthening".
"I believe that the silent majority is actually behind SCO in this case," he said. "Others with [intellectual property] they want to protect, they are hoping that SCO is going to prevail. We've been called into the fight, and we're not backing down. We continue to gain in credibility."
McBride also criticised the GNU General Public Licence (GPL) - the basis for much of the open-source software market - calling it a "beast" that leaves corporate intellectual property unprotected.
"We've felt from day one in this case that building your [business) on the GPL is like building your headquarters on quicksand," McBride said. "Everyone is terrified that their intellectual property is going to get sucked into this GPL machine and get destroyed."
Lawrence Rosen, general counsel for the non-profit Open Source Initiative, said that McBride's criticisms of the GPL are particularly interesting because SCO sold its own Linux under that same GPL until filing its lawsuit against IBM.
"They used it," he said. "How can they now assert that it doesn't apply?"
Rosen said it was likely to take years for the case to be decided in court.
"If IBM wins the case, then SCO is out of the game," he said. "If IBM loses and pays a whole bunch of money to SCO," then that would give SCO its sought-after compensation and release any other Linux users from having to pay damages, Rosen said.
Many corporate Linux users are waiting to decide whether to pay the licensing fees, since no court has yet ruled on SCO's claims. SCO has publicly warned companies using Linux that they could become legal targets.
In March, SCO filed a $1bn lawsuit against IBM alleging that IBM illegally put some of SCO's protected Unix source code into the open-source Linux project.
The lawsuit was later amended to include additional claims and now seeks at least $3bn. Last week, SCO said it would sell special Unix licences for $699 per processor to allow enterprise Linux users to use Linux legally without violating SCO's alleged intellectual property.
With some 2.5 million enterprise servers running Linux, there is a "very significant opportunity" for SCO to gain revenue through the licences, McBride said. At $699 per CPU, that becomes a potential pool of revenue in the neighborhood of $1.7bn.
"We're cautiously optimistic," he said. "We've done a lot of models on this, and the models are pretty exciting."
Todd R Weiss writes for Computerworld