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SCO Claims Linux Lifted ELF

SCO Claims Linux Lifted ELF

SCO's two latest filings with the Utah district court hearing its $5 billion suit against IBM claim that SCO's Unix Executable and Linking Format (ELF) codes are in Linux illegally.

The charge was made by SCO VP of engineering Sandeep Gupta in a declaration that is currently under seal, but is quoted, albeit tersely, in the new filings.

If the ELF charge stands, SCO believes it would topple the whole Linux edifice.

ELF is like mortar to the operating system. Stripped out, all its applications would break. And, according to SCO spokesman Blake Stowell, it would not be something that the Linux community could simply rewrite, which is the Linux adherent's pat solution to SCO's infringement issues.

ELF is sorta like Microsoft's DLLs and was developed by AT&T's Unix System Labs as part of the Unix Application Binary Interface (ABI) before Unix was sold to Novell in 1993.

In 1995, the year Novell sold Unix to the Santa Cruz Operation, an industry group calling itself the Tool Interface Standard Committee (TISC) came up with a ELF 1.2 standard and to popularize it and streamline PC software development granted users a "non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license" to the stuff, effectively putting it in the public domain, SCO says.

SCOsource chief Chris Sontag, the SCO VP in charge of the company's hate-inducing IP push, claims TISC, which folded immediately after the spec was published, exceeded its rights even though both Novell and the old SCO - as well as Microsoft, IBM and Intel - were on the committee.

Sontag also says that any entities that ignore SCO's ELF copyrights are infringing. Such a claim is likely to put SCO on a war footing, if it isn't already, with the Free Software Foundation, whose GNU operating environment makes broad use of ELF.

The Free Software Foundation is also the creator of the GPL, the viral license that makes Linux so provocative. SCO calls the GPL "quicksand" and claims it's invalid. IBM's countersuit against SCO claims SCO breached the GPL so the GPL could be tested in the court for a second, possibly definitive, time.

Where SCO is going to go with ELF is still up in the air, according to Sontag. It's still early days in fleshing out all its claims, he said.

SCO also claims "substantial similarity" between the Read-Copy-Update (RCU) routine in Linux 2.6.5 and Linux patches and SCO's copyrighted work, specifically SVR4.2 MP.

It thinks that Unix SMP 4.2 System V initialization (init) code was copied into Linux 2.6, that there's "substantial similarity" between the user level synchronization (ULS) routines in Linux and Unix, that its Unix System V IPC code was copied into Linux 2.4.20 and that copyrighted Unix header and interfaces were copied into Linux.

It also says the journaled file system (JFS) module from later versions of AIX, which SCO believes may derive from the JFS Unix, is in Linux 2.6. - MOG

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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Most Recent Comments
Rob Poole 07/20/04 06:12:49 PM EDT

Who is this "Jim" character? He seems like he's astroturfing a bit. Consider: "I think Linux is too risky now. There are so many issues Linux is simply ignoring. They don't seem to acknowledge the laws, they hate courts and laws, they disrespect everybody and they think it is ok to steal from IP owners. Linux developers has to learn to develop their own stuff and stop borrowing and stealing code from others. Just recently they stole from Microsoft, how long can we tolerate this. Linux and GPL should be declared illegal."

Who is the "they" you're referring to, Jim? The shadow conspiracy? Or the programmers developing Linux? I don't see how you can make a blanket claim that "they" are all law-haters, since there are literally hundreds of programmers contributing to the Linux kernel alone, and all of "them" have different opinions on the issues of politics and the law.

It has never been shown that any IP was "stolen" and incorporated into the Linux kernel. That's why this case is ongoing. You assert that it's a foregone conclusion. Nice try, bub. It doesn't work that way. Innocent until proven guilty, remember?

What's this about stealing from Microsoft? When did this theft supposedly happen, and what was stolen? This is about SCO claiming its IP was stolen and incorporated into Linux; nobody has been arguing that anything was stolen from Microsoft, and then you come along with "just recently they stole from Microsoft." Riiiiight.

SCO is trying to declare the GPL illegal, and their legal theory for doing so is laughable. It won't happen.

All I have to say is, stop astroturfing. You're embarrassing yourself by making unfounded claims and accusations.

Kyle B. 07/20/04 05:51:22 PM EDT

Purportedly ELF is an open standard, that is evidence that an independant implementation _could_ have been written, not that it _was_. SCO's copyright infringment claims are valid wrt ELF if they can show in a US court that the ELF code in Linux was copied from their source code. If they can proove that, and that it was done at IBM (finding the author should be possible given the public archives of the linux kernel), then they have a case.

blowme 07/20/04 05:49:42 PM EDT

"Sorta?" Sorta? WTF wrote this garbage? Not only is this a strange venue for lapdogging SCO's spurious claims, but I'd expect more professional journalism at the very least.

the Dude 07/20/04 05:47:53 PM EDT

I think VITAL is what was supposed to be there, not viral.

Kyle B. 07/20/04 05:46:24 PM EDT

Purportedly ELF is an open standard, that is evidence that an independant implementation _could_ have been written, not that it _was_. SCO's copyright infringment claims are valid wrt ELF if they can show in a US court that the ELF code in Linux was copied from their source code. If they can proove that, and that it was done at IBM (finding the author should be possible given the public archives of the linux kernel), then they have a case.

Shawn Boyette 07/20/04 05:42:58 PM EDT

This is some astonishingly bad technical reporting.

"ELF is like mortar to the operating system."
No, ELF is the Executable Loading Fomat, the (current) mechanism and design through which regular old files become executable programs.

"Stripped out, all its applications would break."
Well, assuming for a moment that you can "strip out" the very format of a compiled application, which you cannot, sure, applications would break because they wouldn't be applications anymore; they would be files containing non-executable binary data.

"And, according to SCO spokesman Blake Stowell, it would not be something that the Linux community could simply rewrite"
I guess I imagined that whole episode back around 1995 when Linux ditched the ancient a.out binary load-linker format (ditched by default, that is...there's still support in the kernel config) and moved *to* ELF. Clearly, load link formats *are* something that can simply recompiled (not rewritten (again with the non-comprehension of one's subject matter)).

"ELF is sorta like Microsoft's DLLs"
"Sorta"? What kind of hack uses the word "sorta" in a technical (or, in fact, any) article? "Sorta" is a word 10th graders use in theie blogs, not a word used by journalists who wish to appear professional.

Jim 07/20/04 05:42:38 PM EDT

I think Linux is too risky now. There are so many issues Linux is simply ignoring. They don't seem to acknowledge the laws, they hate courts and laws, they disrespect everybody and they think it is ok to steal from IP owners. Linux developers has to learn to develop their own stuff and stop borrowing and stealing code from others. Just recently they stole from Microsoft, how long can we tolerate this. Linux and GPL should be declared illegal.

S Javeed 07/20/04 05:42:11 PM EDT

First of all, I don't think there's anything in Maureen's article that's "shameful" or otherwise "FUD"-ish. It seems like an ok piece of factual reporting without much interpretation.

As far as the "viral" nature of the GPL is concerned, if you read the language of the GPL you will realize it is indeed viral: Any product that is a derivative work of a GPL'ed piece of software is automatically "infected" with the GPL and the requirements of the GPL. This means that the derivative work will need to not only be free but also open source. This is the reason the LGPL license was created so people do not have to be afraid of the viral nature of the GPL. Similarly the BSD license is non-viral and friendly to commercial use.

The viral nature of the GPL is actually very beneficial as it guarantees that anyone who makes a derivative work of a GPL'ed product will be forced to contribute their changes back to the community.

Just my $0.02

Pär Karlsson 07/20/04 05:38:50 PM EDT

SCO and this 'journalist' needs a reality check. Check the source. Read the accompanying licenses. Talk to people that know what's going on. This only provokes people, it does not provide any information relevant to what is actually going on.

Steve Smith 07/20/04 05:36:42 PM EDT

Haha! I think Linux world editors are incompetent, and/or payed off!

How anyone can print such drivel right out of the mouth of the SCOundrels mouth, without showing some actual facts displays great lack of journalistic integrity and competence.

I guess that what you get when somone is posing as a Linux mag... and in reality are in microsoft's pocket.

darkell 07/20/04 05:36:01 PM EDT

Isn't real journalism supposed to be objective and even handed?

avdp 07/20/04 05:35:58 PM EDT

newSCO says has said a lot of things, and it's ever changing. Everytime they actually show something they claim is infringing (which is very rarely) they get laughed at and their argument is thoroughly disproved. So they are getting more desperate now. Now they claim that they own ELF - in spite of the fact that an standard committee they belonged to released it to public domain. Nice try at trying to rewrite history. Not gonna fly. The rest of their allegations: show us the code. Until you do, it's all talk.

(oh yeah, as a side note, let's not forget that as of now it doesn't look they even own any UNIX IP anyway. Novell does)

IANAL, but... 07/20/04 05:35:38 PM EDT

SCO is going to have a damned hard time making anything approximating a colorable claim with these charges. For starters, it's not exactly clear that it has ANY claim to ANY UNIX copyrights whatsoever. Their media campaigns have NEVER matched what they will actually assert in court.

Even if one were to suppose that they have such copyrights, Novell retains a control clause that allows them to tell SCO exactly what it can and cannot do with the licenses. Novell has told them they're unauthorized to pursue any of this litigation, and ordered them to waive their purported rights with respect to the licenses in question.

Long story short, Novell owns UNIX, not SCO. SCO is already bending over backwards to explain its contradictory statements to the different courts in different venues after IBM's 10th counter-claim concerning infringement. Judicial estoppel has them over a barrel here, and it's not the only estoppel that's working against them.

Basically, they've severely prejudiced themselves by waiting so long to bring the infringement suits. Were the infringement claims real, and not merely examples of SCO trying to ditch its past promises and obligations, SCO would have raised these issues in a more timely manner.

As such, this is merely more SCO FUD. There is nothing new here, just more unsubstantiated claims which will soon be refuted in detail by all the programmers who actually made ELF, just for good measure.

Frankly, I'm waiting for one of the litigants to raise a motion to sanction SCO's lawyers. They've been *VERY* nice to the other lawyers so far; but I have a feeling this will soon turn ugly. While I admit that SCO's lawyers have been showing somewhat better form of late, they are badly hamstrung by previous glaring gaffes, as well as Darl's copious public statements. It's kind of hard to win a race when you keep shooting yourself in the foot...

Tim Wright 07/20/04 05:33:57 PM EDT

Umm... if RCU was in SVR4.2ES/MP it's because Sequent contributed it as one of the partners back then. It doesn't change the fact that it was a) invented by Sequent, b) copyrighted by Sequent, and c) patented by Sequent. Since IBM bought Sequent, they own RCU lock, stock and barrel and can do anything they damn-well please with it. It's not a UNIX-specific thing anyway. It's a generic multiprocessor scalability mechanism. It annoys the heck out of me when these lying scumbags try to claim ownership for work that friends of mine actually did.

The ELF claims are even more ludicrous. What evidence is there of copying of code?

Oh, a correction to the article, ELF isn't like MS DLLs. It's like MS PE (portable executable format). They're actually *extremely* similar, probably because both derive from the same parent - COFF, or Common Object File Format.

Once more, to anyone who knows the slightest thing about the true history of Unix, these claims are laughable in the extreme.

IPonUrIP 07/20/04 05:27:19 PM EDT

Over fifteen years ago, I was a journalism student and I wrote many articles for the campus newspaper. These articles were clearly protected intellectual properties under US Copyright law. I can tell you that I was completely shocked to read this article today, as it is *substantially similar* to an article I wrote years ago. Not only does this article possess more than 85% the same words (just look at how often "is" and "are" appears in Ms. O'Gara's imitation of my article), but it follows other inventions of mine, such as using a headline and subheader, breaking information into discrete sections (I call them paragraphs), and ending each sentance with a period like this one.

Linuxworld should be advised that I will not permit this violation of Copyright inventions to occur. I'm certain a settlement of $5 billion would suffice. Granted, there are many others who I will pursue as well, and I may offer a licensing program for those who wish to comply with the law.

Oh, Ms. O'Gara may wish to read up on the differences between a patent and a copyright. I know it's hard for some folks (like $450/hour attorneys and SCO executives), but as a former journalist, we're all experts at everything we write so O'Gara should have no excuse for her failing to differentiate between the two.

ubikkibu 07/20/04 05:18:47 PM EDT

The GPL is a viral license?

Maureen, you edit some kind of Linux newsletter and you slippped this into your article with a straight face?

Total bullshit--you should be ashamed.

thePMG 07/20/04 05:15:31 PM EDT

Be honest Maureen, how much does Microsoft pay you to lie?

Tell Enderle I said hi.

lpbbear 07/20/04 05:12:33 PM EDT

SCO is so full of it. The best thing that could be done with this company would be to have a bulldozer knock their office down and then a steamroller to come along afterwards and pulverize evry last scrap of it into a parking lot.

Bob 07/20/04 05:11:21 PM EDT

oh lord geebus, hep meh, hep meh... is SCO smokin my crack?

fuzzbucket 07/20/04 05:08:11 PM EDT

Wait, if it's "effectively ... in the public domain" then isn't this just another case of SCO blowhards not having a leg to stand on?

Gill Bates 07/20/04 10:30:07 AM EDT

This is utter bollocks. What a cunch of bunts!!

Chris C. Hoover 07/19/04 06:13:03 PM EDT

This animal is sick! Squeeze it right there and it will pass another one!

Stormkrow 07/19/04 03:05:34 PM EDT

Let's see here who owns Linuxworld???
Could it be Microsoft??
Your site spreads more FUD about Linux and hate mongering toward open source software than just about any entity known. You have NO right using the Linuxworld moddiker to ensnare poor uneducated people to the lies that you spew.
Chekc groklaw for the FACTS before you publish LIES.
Pathetic. SCO having a foot to stand on. Come on. It's OVER. SCO owning ELF, hell you cant even properly define ELF and you claim to be "Linuxworld".

Kevin Michel 07/19/04 12:07:48 PM EDT

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Michael Walters 07/16/04 03:00:06 PM EDT

"The Free Software Foundation is also the creator of the GPL, the viral license ..."

Viral license? Wow, language right out of the Microsoft FUD manual. Good to know where you're coming from. That gives me a good idea how much credence to give your stuff from now on.

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