The SCO Group has confirmed that it sent a letter to all 535 members of the US Congress which claimed that Linux and open-source software is a threat to the security and economy of the US.
The letter, dated 8 January, was published on the internet this week by an open-source lobbying organisation called the Open Source and Industry Alliance (OSAIA). The letter states that the commoditising influence of open-source software such as Linux is bad for the US economy and argues that open source also skirts export controls governing commercial products.
"A computer expert in North Korea who has a number of personal computers and an internet connection can download the latest version of Linux, complete with multiprocessing capabilities misappropriated from Unix, and, in short order, build a virtual supercomputer," the letter says.
The letter, which is signed by SCO chief executive officer Darl McBride, was meant to educate US lawmakers on "infringement issues with regard to Linux", said SCO spokesman Blake Stowell.
With dozens of countries considering legislating the use of open source, SCO believed it's "only a matter of time before others in our country would put legislation on the table around open-source software", Stowell added.
Linux creator Linus Torvalds disputed SCO's claim that Linux contained misappropriated code, and said that SCO is wrong to suggest that US export controls apply to software.
"Those export controls apply to hardware, not software," he said, adding that a computer's operating system is not much help when it comes to designing atomic warheads. "You don't do much with a supercomputer if you don't have the software to run on top of it."
SCO sued IBM last year, claiming that IBM illegally contributed code to Linux derived from SCO's version of Unix, called System V Unix.
SCO has since claimed that Linux also includes other code that violates its System V copyrights, but the company has been heavily criticised for failing to prove these allegations.
Linux supplier Novell maintained SCO did not even own the copyrights to the System V source code. In response, SCO filed a slander lawsuit with Novell earlier this week.
SCO's attempt to lobby Congress against open-source software shows that it does not believe its own claims, said OSAIA president and CEO Ed Black, and if its allegations are true, SCO should be encouraging people to use Linux instead of criticising it.
"If you had a [legitimate] claim, you'd say, 'The more people who are using it, the more I can collect from'."
Meanwhile, rival Microsoft stopped calling Linux and open-source software "un-American" and a "cancer" last July, when it announced that it had switched tactics and would resort to analyst reports and case studies to strengthen its battle against Linux.
SCO, which was paid millions of dollars in software licensing fees by Microsoft last year, has picked up where the software giant left off, said Black. "They've become a PR firm and a litigation firm for Microsoft. At one time they actually had a product, but that doesn't exist anymore."
SCO continues to sell its UnixWare and OpenServer software, but the company's activities have, increasingly, focused on the company's Linux battle. Last week, the company began making its Intellectual Property Licence for Linux available to small and medium-sized businesses in the US.
Stowell insisted Microsoft had no influence on the 8 January letter. SCO and Microsoft have discussed the Linux intellectual property issues, he said, but Stowell disputed Black's claim that his company was working for Microsoft to attack Linux. "It's not something we have strategy meetings on or anything."
The letter is available online at http://www.osaia.org/letters/sco_hill.pdf.
SCO revealed yesterday that a court hearing in the IBM lawsuit, scheduled for today, had been postponed until 6 February. The court had been expected to examine whether SCO had complied with a December court order compelling it to provide meaningful details of how IBM allegedly violated its intellectual property.
"Both sides felt we would be better served if the hearing were postponed," said Stowell.
Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service