SCO sues DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone

The SCO Group has filed its first lawsuits against enterprise Linux users, targeting DaimlerChrysler and vehicle parts retailer...

The SCO Group has filed its first lawsuits against enterprise Linux users, targeting DaimlerChrysler and vehicle parts retailer AutoZone.

That lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler alleged that the carmaker had violated its software licensing agreement with SCO by refusing to provide a requested "certification of compliance" as part of a software audit.

The suit asked the court to bar DaimlerChrysler permanently from further violations of the software agreement and seeks an injunction requiring it to "remedy the effects of its past violations" of the agreement.

The suit seeks undetermined damages.

SCO's suit against AutoZone alleged the retailer violated SCO's Unix copyrights through its use of Linux, charging that AutoZone is "running versions of the Linux operating system that contain code, structure, sequence and/or organization from SCO's proprietary Unix System V code in violation of SCO's copyrights".

Ray Pohlman, a spokesman for Memphis-based AutoZone, said the company had not yet seen the lawsuit so he could not comment.

"It is our understanding, however, that SCO has sent letters to hundreds of companies, making similar allegations," he said. Pohlman would not discuss how AutoZone uses Linux inside its business. 

AutoZone was an SCO customer as recently as 2002 and once ran SCO Unix on point-of-sale systems in its approximately 500 stores around the country. 

Mary Gauthier, a spokeswoman for DaimlerChrysler, declined to comment because the company had not received the lawsuit. But information on IBM's website indicated that DaimlerChrysler has been using Linux and a 108-node IBM server cluster for vehicle crash analysis and simulation since 2002. 

SCO sued IBM last March in a suit that now seeks at least $5bn in damages, alleging IBM illegally contributed some of SCO's System V Unix code to the Linux open-source project. IBM has countersued.

AutoZone is an IBM customer, using IBM's content management and DB2 database applications, and a former Red Hat Linux customer, having used Red Hat Linux for its in-store intranet system.

Red Hat spokeswoman Leigh Cantrell Day acknowledged that AutoZone had been a Red Hat customer until "several months ago".

The lawsuit seeks undisclosed damages and a court injunction to prevent AutoZone from continuing to use or copy any part of SCO's copyrighted materials.

AutoZone had been a SCO customer as recently as 2002, and once ran SCO Unix on point-of-sale systems in its stores around the US, which are around 500.

In response to AutoZone lawsuit, the non-profit Open Source Development Labs reiterated its standing offer of help to the car parts company and any future targets of lawsuits from SCO through its open-source legal defence fund, which was established in January.

"The entire Linux ecosystem, including OSDL and its 35-plus member organisations, will stand firm against any legal actions against Linux end users made by the SCO Group," said OSDL chief executive officer Stuart Cohen.

"SCO's decision to move forward with its end-user lawsuit is unfortunate, but due to the questionable merits of the case, we see no reason why this case will have an impact on the growth of Linux in the enterprise."

The defence fund has collected more than $3m towards its goal of $10m.

SCO chief executive and president Darl McBride said the lawsuits were filed because the two companies failed to respond adequately to SCO’s warnings that violations of its intellectual property would no longer be tolerated. 

"DaimlerChrysler is one of thousands of companies that have source code and or source reference licensing agreements with SCO," McBride said.

"These agreements ... describe the terms under which the licensee may use Unix System V, as well as the derivative works. At the beginning of December last year, SCO notified thousands of these licensees [by letter] of their obligations under these agreements. Some companies responded appropriately and certified their compliance with the terms of the agreements. Some companies, including DaimlerChrysler, have failed to respond appropriately." 

McBride said he saw "similarities" to SCO’s IP concerns and those of the music recording industry, which has been pursuing lawsuits against individual users for allegedly violating the IP rights of recording companies.

"We believe that the legal actions that we have taken and will continue to take will have a similar impact on end users of Unix and Linux," he said. 

McBride added that SCO’s copyright claims in these cases "relate to core operating system functionality of essential root structure and sequences of Unix System V that was used in the design of Linux". 

On Monday, SCO announced that server hosting company in Houston had signed an IP licensing agreement to shelter the hosting provider's customers from any future Unix or Linux IP claims. McBride said he expected similar deals to follow yesterday's lawsuits. 

"If people would prefer to work through the court system, then we’ll file a complaint and we’ll work through the court system," he said. "Depending on which way customers want to go, we’ll accommodate their desires." 

McBride did not respond directly when asked if SCO would eventually refund any licensing fees if his company lost its case. 

Financial analyst Dion Cornett at Decatur Jones Equity Partners in Chicago said that the two new cases will be difficult for SCO to prove. 

"They discussed potentially AutoZone’s use of some specific types of files or shared source libraries," but AutoZone claims they do not use those files, Cornett said.

"Without knowing what building blocks AutoZone is using, the claim looks something like a fishing expedition." 

Bill Claybrook, an analyst at Harvard Research Group, said that while SCO is now carrying out its threats to go after enterprise Linux users in court, the ultimate success of the effort remains to be seen. 

"I don’t think they’re going to get anywhere," Claybrook said. "They have actually struck with some good-sized customers here. But I don’t think anybody’s going to rush out and buy a licence for it. 

"It’s basically another attempt to wrangle money out of people."

He added that the whole scenario could backfire if the target companies file countersuits at SCO, which would be very costly for the company. "I don’t see how they can afford it."

Todd R Weiss writes for Computerworld

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