What does the SCO code reveal to analysts?

The SCO Group has, as promised, revealed to several industry analysts some of the Linux source code claimed to have been copied...

The SCO Group has, as promised, revealed to several industry analysts some of the Linux source code claimed to have been copied illegally from Unix.  But opinions vary on what the revelations may mean and how they may fit in with the $1bn lawsuit that SCO filed against IBM in March. That suit alleged that IBM misappropriated SCO Unix trade secrets by putting some of the code into Linux. 

Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio said she was shown two or three samples of the allegedly copied Linux code, and it appeared to her that the sections were a "copy and paste" match of the SCO Unix code that she was shown in comparison. 

DiDio and the other analysts were able to view the code only under a nondisclosure agreement, so she was unable to divulge intricate details of what she was shown.

"The courts are going to  have to prove this, but based on what I'm seeing ... I think there is a basis that SCO has a credible case," DiDio said. "This is not a nuisance case." 

George Weiss, an analyst at Gartner, last week said he had reviewed several supporting documents from SCO and saw them as potentially bolstering the company's claims. The documents allegedly show the contracts that gave SCO the rights to Unix that "to me look very legitimate", he said.

Weiss refused to sign a nondisclosure agreement, so he was not permitted to view any of the contested code, but he said the documents he saw at least gave credence to SCO's claims. 

Aberdeen Group analyst Bill Claybrook said he viewed some of SCO's disputed code and saw that SCO could, potentially, have a claim.

But he said his opinion, based on a brief look at some of the code, is far different than a judge or jury reaching a verdict in the IBM case. He admitted he had "no idea" if there was a problem with the code. 

"From what I've seen, I think people should be taking the SCO accusations seriously, but I don't know if they have any proof." 

Claybrook said that though he was shown code that matched between Unix and Linux, he was unable to determine where the code had originated or how it might have got there. 

One thing that "bothered" him, was that he asked SCO officials if they had any "direct evidence" that IBM copied any System V code into Linux and was first told there was no such evidence. Hours later, Claybrook said, SCO officials called him back and told him that they had "misspoken" and that they did have such evidence. 

"That's kind of strange," he said. 

Meanwhile, IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky turned down SCO's offer to look at the code because it would not have provided any fair conclusions or answered any questions about the case.

Even if the code is the same between Linux and Unix, he said, there would be no way to know whether it was put there legally or who put it there. "How do they know it was IBM?" he asked. 

The centre of SCO's legal fight is its position that it owns the Unix operating system, along with all the contracts, claims and copyrights associated with Unix. The company also alleged that portions of its System V code are found in Linux, as well as portions of resulting derivative code. 

Last month, SCO warned all commercial Linux users that they could be using its code illegally and recommended that commercial users should seek legal advice to help them decide what to do about their use of Linux. 

Two weeks ago, Novell called for SCO to put up or shut up over its allegations. In a letter on its website from Novell chief executive officer and president Jack Messman, the company lashed out by challenging SCO's assertion that it owns the copyrights and patents to Unix System V. 

Novell, which had previously acquired the Unix systems business of AT&T, broke up and sold its Unix properties in 1994 and 1995. One of those deals was with the former Santa Cruz Operation, which was bought by Caldera International and later became The SCO Group.

Todd R Weiss writes for Computerworld

Read more on PC hardware