The SCO Group's chief executive officer Darl McBride has accused free software advocates of threatening the intellectual property protections provided by US and European law.
"There is a group of software developers in the United States, and other parts of the world, that do not believe in the approach to copyright protection mandated by Congress," he wrote in an open letter posted on SCO's website.
The letter argued that Linux's GNU General Public License (GPL) software licence is "exactly opposite in its effect from the 'copyright' laws adopted by the US Congress and the European Union".
It accused the creators of the GPL, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and Red Hat of seeking to eliminate the profit motive from software development, and argued that the profit motive "underpins the constitutionality of the US Copyright Act".
The letter was written in response to a position paper authored by FSF general council Eben Moglen.
Linux backers blasted the letter, pointing out that the GPL itself requires copyright protection to be enforceable, and accused SCO of being a copyright violator by distributing Linux under terms contrary to the GPL.
McBride's argument has its "fundamental facts wrong", said Linux creator Linus Torvalds.
"I'm a big believer in copyrights," he added. "Of all the intellectual property ([aws], copyright ... is the only one that is expressly designed so that individual people can [and do] get them without having scads of lawyers on their side."
"If Darl McBride was in charge, he'd probably make marriage unconstitutional too, since clearly it de-emphasises the commercial nature of normal human interaction, and probably is a major impediment to the commercial growth of prostitution."
McBride's company sued IBM in March, claiming that IBM's Linux contributions had violated SCO's intellectual property. Since then SCO has escalated its rhetoric, accusing Linux developers of copyright violations and of threatening to destroy the software industry itself.
SCO has been reluctant to provide proof of its claims, and in August the Red Hat sued the company, maintaining that SCO's allegations were unfounded and were harming Red Hat's business.
"It's amazing that this type of letter gets any attention. We're trying to get these issues resolved in court and instead we're seeing delay tactics," said a Red Hat spokeswoman. "I think that should be examined instead of these further allegations that SCO brings to the media."
SCO recently moved to delay the discovery portion of its legal dispute with Red Hat, she said.
One attorney who has been following the case expressed surprise that SCO is continuing with its public attacks on Linux, even while it has engaged high-profile law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner to handle its legal disputes. David Boise served as special trial counsel for the US Department of Justice in its antitrust case against Microsoft.
"It's consistent with the approach of trying to have this thing tried in the court of public opinion," said Jeffrey Neuberger, an IP lawyer at the New York firm Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner.
"If it wasn't for the fact that David Boies is representing them, I'd say that they were acting in desperation."
McBride's letter can be found here: http://www.sco.com/copyright/
The OSDL position paper can be found here: http://www.osdl.org/docs/osdl_eben_moglen_second_statement.pdf
Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service