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SCO and Linux: this one will run and run
SCO's latest act in the Linux lawsuit saga has been to implement a licensing scheme for Linux users, writes Robin Bloor of Bloor Research. In the words of SCO CEO Darl McBride, "SCO is prepared to offer a licence for SCO's UnixWare 7.1.3 product for use in conjunction with any Linux product. This licensing format will assure that Linux users will be able to run Linux in full compliance with SCO's underlying IP rights."
This is on the one hand, amusing, and on the other bewildering.
Let's begin with the bewildering bit, and assume for the moment that Linux does, in some part, contain code that violates SCOs copyright - which is still a matter of dispute. It is as if the music industry decided to sell lincenses to illegal downloaders of music so that they can play the music in full compliance with copyright laws. The music industry may not be sharpest sector in the economy, but it's not daft.
Now let's consider the amusing part. Ever since it decided that it had had its IP (or copyright - I'm not sure which) violated. SCO has been fueling the fire of publicity that this dispute ignited and its share price has responded very favorably indeed - having multiplied by a factor of about four.
It added about 10 percent when it announced its new wacky Linux licensing scheme. Much of the initial increase was related to Microsoft's sudden largesse in providing a bag full of money to address any outstanding copyright/IP violation between the two companies. Since SCO revenues in the area of $64 million and losses of about $24 million in 2002, revenues are king - especially if you have to fund a high profile law suit.
SCO is of course suing IBM for $1 billion or so, whom it seems to blame for "donating the code". It has not identified the code in question except to say that it involves the multiprocessing capabilities added to Linux 2.2 including NUMA (Non-Uniform Memory Architecture) features that let multiple processors execute code concurrently. There have been rumors that it would sue Red Hat, SuSE, Linus Torvalds, but my guess is that these actions are in reserve in case the share price flags.
The ever growing Linux user community seems to be unperturbed at the moment and if history is anything to go by, they will remain unperturbed. The problem with the law is that it doesn't resolve disputes of this nature quickly.
A number of people are questioning why SCO simply doesn't declare what the violated code/IP in question is. My guess is that it actually exists (it's hard but not impossible to believe that SCO would do this if it had nothing to complain about) and that it came from someone in IBM. However as soon as SCO declares what it is, the Open Source movement will rewrite the offending code, leaving SCO with zero traction. It may therefore be to SCO's advantage to spin this out. If it wins against IBM then it can go after Red Hat, SuSe and VA at leisure.
However it is difficult to believe that IBM has made a legal mistake. It must believe that it has acted according to contract and it has the best legal advice that money and antitrust experience can buy.
So IBM is ignoring SCO and its dance of the seven veils, and perhaps even rubbing salt in the wound by launching a promotion of free SuSE Linux Enterprise Server licenses (estimate value at $2,300 and 64 bit to boot) for buyers of its pSeries boxes. IBM is suggesting customers run Linux on one-to-four-way SMP servers, which means running the "disputed" code.