Opinion

Thought for the day: Does anyone own Linux?

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Will SCO have evidence to back its claim against IBM, asks Anthony Youngman.

 

 

 

SCO continues to spread sound and fury with its claims against Linux. But do its allegations have any supporting evidence or any basis in fact?

SCO's lawsuit is for "abuse of trade secrets". This means it cannot directly affect Linux users - it is solely a dispute between SCO and IBM. And SCO's suit rests on some questionable assumptions. The first, and most crucial, is that "SCO owns Unix".

SCO has never owned Unix, as it was not included in the sale when the company bought the AT&T code.

The court case between BSD and USL ended up severing all legal links between the two code bases, and found that large chunks of the USL code were in fact copyright BSD. This code presumably still heavily contaminates SCO's code base.

The second assumption is that a technology transfer went from SCO to Linux. However, doing a feature comparison shows that the transfer is far more likely to have gone the other way.

Take symmetrical multiprocessing, for example. SCO derides Linux for "only supporting four or eight processors".

It was SCO/ Caldera that provided the original symmetrical multiprocessing hardware used to make Linux SMP-capable, such that 32-processor Linux systems were around in 1999, and we have 128-processor systems today. SCO's Unixes today still do not go beyond 16 processors.

It has also transpired that SCO does not even own the copyright to the original Unix, as Novell kept this. All that SCO bought was the right to exploit the code base, and only code that it added was SCO copyright.

All this leads me to suspect that the SCO case will fall down flat in court.

The company will have to go to court with hard evidence next month, when it seeks to enforce the revocation of IBM's licence.

Its claims will probably be shown up as a sham, but if they are not, the company will probably find itself subject to a criminal investigation for filing false claims, subject to SEC investigation for a "pump and dump" scheme, and subject to several damages suits by an aggrieved IBM and assorted Linux distributors.

What do you think?

Does anyone own Linux?   Tell us in an e-mail >>  ComputerWeekly.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Anthony Youngman is an analyst programmer and a regular contributor to our letters page

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This was first published in June 2003

 

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