SCO is right to go after Linux users

SCO has a duty to assert its claims over disputed open source code

SCO has a duty to assert its claims over disputed open source code

Most Computer Weekly readers are paid to increase the value of their employer's business. We sometimes fail, this is IT after all, but we are not paid to indulge our view of society. And so it is surprising that SCO has been so vilified in its attempts to assert its claimed intellectual property rights over Linux.

I do not know what the result of the SCO versus IBM case will be, but I do know that SCO chief executive Darl McBride and his company are doing what they are paid for in demanding that all users of Linux containing the 2.4 kernel must pay a licence fee or face legal action.

SCO claims that the Linux kernel has been misappropriated from its proprietary Unix operating system. SCO belongs to its shareholders and, if they believe that their property is being stolen, the company has a duty to do something about it - and grab as much money as it can from the alleged wrongdoers.

Do not forget that SCO's directors are employees. If they are trying to make money for the firm, they are doing a good job.

Of course, good is not the same as competent, so is McBride doing the right thing?

A year ago, I had forgotten about SCO, and if asked would have guessed it had been assimilated by Hewlett-Packard or some other IT giant. The firm's profile has certainly been raised since then.

Also, whether you like it or not, the future is Linux and Windows. Proprietary versions of Unix, such as HP-UX and IBM's AIX, will retreat to legacy niches. But unlike IBM or HP, SCO has little consultancy revenue, so it is more dependent on licensing revenues.

In many ways, the future of SCO hinges on its current legal threat. McBride is no stranger to litigation, which is now the whole value of SCO.

Forget technology, after this no one is going to touch SCO products, but if SCO wins, this will not matter. SCO's licence fee demand for certain kinds of Linux operating systems generally still works out cheaper that other forms of non-open source software.

So is the SCO licence demand really a rip-off, as its numerous critics suggest? Many companies that have been stiffed by suppliers over the years may not think so.

SCO may even be doing users a favour in testing the General Public Licence. Other suppliers, and users worldwide, will be watching its actions closely.

Dominic Connor is head of IT at King & Shaxson bond brokers

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