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SCO To Use Unix Copyrights To Tax Linux Users

SCO To Use Unix Copyrights To Tax Linux Users

(July 21, 2003) - The SCO Group says that the US Patent and Trademark Office registered all the Unix and UnixWare copyrights that AT&T's Unix System Labs ever owned in SCO's name last week, dispelling any lingering doubts that SCO does in fact own them.

Now that that's accomplished, SCO CEO Darl McBride says the copyrights will be used to bring Linux users to the negotiating table to work out licenses.

SCO is going to start with the Global 1500 that it sent warning letters to a few weeks ago as well as government entities leaning towards or already embracing Linux.

Ironically, SCO has been taunted and dismissed by such as Novell and Linux creator Linus Torvalds for not suing IBM on copyright grounds and hitting it instead with a $3 billion contract case.

But McBride and his heavy-duty legal talent say copyright law makes the end user responsible for infringement.

"Recovery comes down to the user," McBride said. "The legal issues are with the end users."

These issues - the result of what McBride calls a "prima facie case of significant copyright infringement inside Linux" - could spiral into lawsuits, injunctions, and damages, he indicated, if the users don't come to book. Actually, he said, he'd prefer to avoid lawsuits, but SCO will do what it has to.

Under copyright law, McBride said, entities further up the food chain such as consortia like the Open Source Development Lab, software distributors like Red Hat, and vendors like IBM could only be nailed for contributory infringement.

McBride said SCO doesn't have a formal licensing program in place yet and probably won't until mid-August when SCO Forum rolls around. The immediate plan is try "to work through the process with end users," then arrange to brief CIOs at the forum and maybe fly in SCO's high-profile litigator David Boies, the guy who prosecuted the Microsoft antitrust trial, and have him explain to them how the land lies and show them the corrupted code under NDA.

SCO evidently hasn't figured out yet exactly what the end-user licenses are going to run, but McBride confirmed that the price of UnixWare is the "benchmark" of the company's thinking. UnixWare can run anywhere from $700 to several thousand dollars, he said.

The licenses will be for binary code, not source code, because of the General Public License (GPL), which SCO may ultimately decide to contest. McBride said the GPL is "on shaky ground" and needs "serious modifications" as most of even the Linux faithful privately admit in his experience.

McBride said the users SCO has been talking to and showing code to for the last month and a half indicate they value a binary license. Very few of them, SCO's polls have found, muck with source code.

Discussions with users to date, McBride said, suggesting that there have been quite a few of them already and that they understand the legal case, end in a plea to SCO "not to let matters drag on for two years" so the users can make their "platform decisions." SCO has touched off "a lot of anxiety," McBride said.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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