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SCO makes legal case to its resellers

Aug 18, 20034 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsIBMLinux

Mixing James Bond video clips with dry analysis of legal contracts and source code, The SCO Group made its legal case over IBM’s alleged misappropriation of Linux source code to 650 developers and channel partners at its annual trade show in Las Vegas on Monday.

In a two-and-a-half-hour keynote address, SCO executives sought to portray their struggles with IBM and the Linux community as a fight for the future of proprietary software itself, an argument that seemed to play well with the audience, which cheered McBride on at points.

“We are defending and protecting our intellectual property rights, and this is a huge raging battle around the globe,” said SCO CEO Darl McBride. “We are fighting battles that are going to have an impact on all of you,” he added. “At the end of the day, the GPL [the GNU General Public License software license that governs Linux] is about making software free; it’s about destroying value.”

In March, SCO launched a lawsuit against IBM, claiming the computer maker had inappropriately contributed source code to Linux. In August, IBM countersued, and Linux distributor Red Hat launched a suit of its own against SCO.

McBride said that the IBM suit only came as a last resort after it became clear that Big Blue intended to “obliterate” SCO and its products. “It happened when we got pushed into a corner and had nowhere else to go,” he said.

The relationship with IBM, which had historically been a channel for SCO’s Unix software, began to sour last fall when SCO began developing plans to start charging for its Unix libraries for Linux, McBride said. At that point, IBM threatened to stop letting its partners work with SCO, he claimed. “After we announced that, we were cut off from IBM,” he said. “Around the world, my sales people said, ‘IBM won’t work with us. What did you do?’ “

McBride compared SCO’s struggles with IBM and the Linux community to a James Bond movie and SCO ran a five minute clip of Bond actor Pierce Brosnan obliterating a small airport to underline the point. “Bond is always on the edge of being taken out, but in the end, Bond never dies. But when you look at what we’ve gone through over the last few months, the similarities are striking,” he said.

The James Bond visuals and music, provided courtesy of the hotel hosting the event, the MGM Grand, combined with McBride’s anecdotes of attacks from the Linux community, and the presence of uniformed security guards lent the event an edgy air. “We will be subject to attack while we’re here,” McBride said. “There are rumors of pies in the face for McBride and [SCOsource vice president Chris] Sontag,” he said.

Since the lawsuit, McBride said, SCO’s offices had been picketed, its Yahoo Finance chat groups bombarded with messages to sell SCO’s stock. He added that he had received a 2 a.m. prank call to his home number. “I am Linus Torvalds and I’ve just sued you in the court of Delaware,” the prankster claimed, according to McBride.

During the last half of the keynote, Chris Sontag and Mark J. Heise, one of the lawyers handling SCO’s case against IBM, took the stage to argue the company’s legal case, reiterating their arguments that IBM’s 1984 Unix license with AT&T, later transferred from AT&T to SCO, gave SCO control over any derivative work developed on top of the original Unix code.

Sontag and Heise, who is a partner with Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, argued that 1,549 files and over a million lines of this derivative source code had been inappropriately contributed by IBM to Linux. The NUMA (non-uniform memory architecture), RCU (read copy update), journaling filesystem, XFS filesystem, scheduler, Linux PowerPC, and enterprise volume management system contributions all constituted unauthorized additions to Linux, they claimed.

Sontag and Heise also presented some short snippets of source code that they claimed had been directly copied from SCO’s Unix to Linux.

The company’s arguments seemed to hold weight with the SCO faithful. “I think (they’ve) got a strong case,” said SCO reseller John Moore, the president of Moore Computer Consultants, based in Pembroke Pines, Fla. “I didn’t really take into account the derivative works aspect of it. That’s the nail in the coffin,” he noted. “Not everybody was convinced they had a case. This removes all doubt.”