September 2, 2003 5:54 PM PDT

SCO to send out Linux invoices

The SCO Group is turning up the heat in its attempt to impose Unix license fees for Linux use: It plans to begin sending invoices to companies before the month is out.

The Lindon, Utah-based company announced in August that it wants corporations to buy Unix licenses for using the similar Linux operating system, asking $699 for a single-processor Linux server. But Tuesday, SCO spokesman Blake Stowell said the company will begin the more active approach of sending invoices requesting payment to commercial Linux users, "probably some time this month."

Sending invoices, while a more-aggressive move, still stops short of the kind of legal action the company has threatened before. In July, SCO Chief Executive Darl McBride described the licensing program as "a solution that...gets you square with the use of Linux, without having to go to the courtroom."

SCO will pursue commercial Linux users who have discussed their Linux work publicly, Stowell said. However, it won't take action until it's done more research on those businesses, he added.

Stacey Quandt, an independent Linux analyst, said companies should wait to see how the current SCO lawsuits end before acting.

"I can't see why a company would pay this, since it is all based on allegations and hasn't been proven in court," she said.

SCO argues that Linux contains intellectual property from Unix, an operating system to which SCO holds copyrights and which it licenses to companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems. SCO argues that some Linux source code was copied directly from Unix. It also claims that other Linux source code stems from improvements made to Unix by IBM and others, which then illegally moved the changes to Linux.

SCO has sued IBM for $3 billion over the issue. The move triggered a countersuit from Big Blue as well as a separate legal attack from Linux seller Red Hat. Linux advocates, meanwhile, have scoffed at SCO's intellectual property claims.

Stowell said the invoices mark an intermediate stage in SCO's efforts to get a company to pay up, before taking it to court.

"We're not planning on...suing some commercial user of Linux from the start," he said. "We'll give ample opportunities to get the license before we do that."

The companies to which SCO sends invoices are likely high on its list of candidates for lawsuits, according to Quandt.

"SCO continues to use tactics of brinkmanship, and it is certainly possible that the companies that get invoices could become future defendants," she said.

Some intellectual property attorneys have argued that businesses that take SCO's threats seriously shouldn't pay now, but rather should set money aside in the event that SCO wins in court.

Meanwhile, SCO is having setbacks in one legal case brought by German Linux advocacy group LinuxTag. In that suit, a judge decreed in June that SCO couldn't display a letter sent to 1,500 large companies, warning them that using Linux could pose legal problems.

SCO removed some sections of its Web site to comply with the judge's order. However, LinuxTag then told the court SCO was violating the order by showing its business partners a link to the letter, Stowell said. The court agreed and fined SCO 10,000 euros ($10,800)--a ruling that SCO has appealed, Stowell said.

 

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