March 3, 2004 6:45 PM PST

Torvalds, Linux users unfazed by SCO suits

The SCO Group's lawsuits against two Linux users this week sent ripples through the Linux universe, but not much in the way of fear.

Legal experts expect many Linux customers to grow more nervous as a result of SCO's suits against AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler, but Howard Feiock, systems administrator for Baraboo, Wis.-based dairy cooperative Foremost Farms USA, is not among them.

"I don't think that SCO has a case. I am just waiting for the case to be thrown out and for SCO to subsequently go out of business," said Feiock, whose business uses Linux for screening e-mail for viruses and is testing Oracle business software. "For our organization, we have no plans to discontinue use of Linux in our environment whatsoever."

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And Linus Torvalds, founder and lead programmer of the Linux movement, reacted with scorn to SCO's Linux user suits. "The whole thing is just a charade to distract people from the real issue: that they (SCO) do not have a business," he said in an e-mail interview.

SCO unleashed its Linux user attacks this week, suing car parts retailer AutoZone on Tuesday and automobile manufacturer DaimlerChrysler on Wednesday. SCO accuses AutoZone of infringing SCO's Unix copyrights by using Linux, but the other suit accuses DaimlerChrysler only of failing to certify that it has complied with its Unix license with SCO.

Linux is a close relative of Unix, working identically in many ways. But where open-source Linux may be scrutinized, changed and redistributed by anyone under the terms of the General Public License (GPL), proprietary Unix must be kept secret.

Linux, which runs well on inexpensive Intel processor-based servers, has become increasingly popular despite SCO's actions. Linux has even spread to the Web site of the U.S. District Court in Nevada, where SCO filed its suit against AutoZone, according to site monitoring firm NetCraft.

The suits are taking a toll on Linux, even if it's still growing, said Sanford C. Bernstein financial analyst Charles Di Bona Jr. in a report Wednesday. "The implicit costs of intellectual property protection have largely been overlooked in early assessments of Linux's total cost of ownership, and such incremental up-front costs will inevitably further weaken one of the key drivers of Linux adoption, its apparent cost advantage over Windows," Di Bona said.

SCO expects its lawsuits will start educating Linux customers in the same way the Recording Industry Association of America's lawsuits against alleged music sharing got file swappers' notice.

But thus far SCO's attention-getting methods haven't carried the day with customers. Of the 3,000 Unix licensees to whom SCO sent letters in December demanding they detail their compliance with their software agreements, fewer than half have responded, SCO Chief Executive Darl McBride said Wednesday.

Show the code
Linux enthusiasts have been pressuring SCO to release details of its claims that Linux infringes Unix copyrights, and in the AutoZone suit, SCO came a step closer to meeting that demand. It listed a number of detailed operating system processes--schedulers, threads, file system technology, and input-output methods, for example--used by Unix. The company asserted in the legal filing that Linux infringes on SCO's copyrights by also using them.

Torvalds said that technology is hardly exclusive. "The things mentioned are definitely not unique to Unix and Linux. Kernel threads and virtual file system layers--they must be joking. The only thing that makes any ounce of sense is their claims about somebody using (Unix) System V libraries," he said. Libraries are supporting software packages that operating systems and higher-level software rely on.

But some things are changing, even among Linux enthusiasts such as Sam Ockman, founder and chairman of Linux server seller Penguin Computing. "If a customer asked (about the SCO actions), in past we told them it was primarily a contract thing between SCO and IBM, but obviously it's much broader now," he said. Overall, though, "I really don't think at the end of the day anyone's not going to use Linux because of it."

One unruffled Linux user is Don Buchholz of iMove, a Portland company that makes high-end surveillance cameras. "I doubt SCO has any significant case against Linux," he said. "I suspect they can't really touch us," he added, because SCO's cases thus far all have involved companies that have license agreements with SCO, and iMove doesn't have any.

Chief Executive Don MacAskill, whose company, Smugmug, uses 11 Linux servers and "relies heavily on Linux," also yawned.

"We're not worried in the slightest by SCO's actions today or at any time in the past," MacAskill said. Among the reasons: "SCO has distributed Linux themselves. By doing so, even if there's a remote chance some of their code got copied into the Linux kernel, they've essentially given it away under the GPL. They can't rescind or revoke that right later, after the fact," he said.

SCO, which owns a disputed amount of Unix intellectual property, inherited the agreements by which inventor AT&T and its successors licensed the operating system to IBM, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Graphics, numerous universities and others. SCO has sued IBM for more than $5 billion in damages, alleging that Big Blue violated its Unix contract by moving Unix technology to Linux that it should have kept secret.

IBM denies wrongdoing and has countersued SCO for patent infringement. Meanwhile, Novell, a previous Unix owner, claims that it owns Unix copyrights, forcing SCO to sue to establish ownership. And Linux seller Red Hat has sued SCO to try to establish that Linux doesn't violate SCO copyrights or trade secrets.

Linux enthusiasts also chimed in Wednesday.

Eric Raymond, an open-source software advocate and author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar, said SCO's actions were without merit, adding that Linux enthusiasts already are "urging everybody to go buy something at AutoZone, even if it's as trivial as an air freshener."

Added Stuart Cohen, CEO of the Open Source Development Labs industry consortium, "I don't think it has any effect on the acceleration of Linux, any effect on people deploying Linux."

Cohen told AutoZone of OSDL's legal defense fund on Wednesday. "They (SCO) have an issue with IBM and Novell, and I think they should leave the Linux users out of it. If they're going to do this, we're going to stand against their legal actions and support users," Cohen said.

The waiting game
Intellectual-property attorneys, many of whom have respect for SCO's attorney, David Boies, are not so sanguine as Linux fans.

"I think people will wait" for legal results before signing SCO intellectual property licenses, "but it's going to make people nervous," said Mark Radcliffe of law firm Gray Cary.

Jeffrey Osterman of Weil, Gotshal & Manges said SCO no doubt will use the AutoZone case "to induce other commercial end users to take SCO's licenses at what I'm sure will be characterized as very reasonable rates." Companies will likely perform a calculation that weighs its potential legal costs against the license fee and the message that signing it sends to anyone else thinking of suing.

But Osterman pointed to legal challenges SCO will face. SCO will have to prove that Linux copied not just actual Unix ideas, but specific expressions of those ideas. And it will have to prove that it didn't provide a license to use Linux already by virtue of the fact that it sold the operating system itself.

Added David Byer of Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault, "It's fair to say that most the world has been sitting on the sidelines watching the big fellas duke it out," not asking many questions about how the suit affects them. But with SCO's new suits against Linux users, "My guess is more people are going to be asking those questions."


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Add your comment
SCO law suits
Will SCO become the next Aureal-- a company that won the legal process, but dumped so much money into lawyer fees that it was forced to close it's doors ?
Posted by kennyjboyd (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SCO to its doom..
SCO right now, is acting like a big damn fool. Any other company which SCO knows of, is being sued by it. What SCO wants out of this is totally unknown. As such, SCO has no chances of winning the whole case. Even, if it wins the case, then, there are so many companies, which have also submitted cases against SCO [http://like Red Hat, Novell, IBM etc.|http://like Red Hat, Novell, IBM etc.]; that, they will take enough time to actually, allow it to go for the licence it is talking about . And, in no probability, will ppl ever be for SCO; with its actions, SCO has proved the whole of Open source World, that it is against them, and is out to destroy it. Also, as such SCO has already lost its case in Germany...
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
The same is goin to happen to SCO in other countries also.
My sympathies to SCO
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Novell, IBM etc
As such, SCO has no chances of winning the whole case. Even, if it wins the case, then, there are so many companies, which have also submitted cases against SCO [http://like Red Hat, Novell, IBM etc.|http://like Red Hat, Novell, IBM etc.]; that, they will take enough time to actually, allow it to go for the licence it is talking about . And, in no probability, will ppl ever be for SCO; with its actions, SCO has proved the whole of Open source World, that it is against them, and is out to destroy it.
<a class="jive-link-external" href=";friendid=z1HluB4R8Zd7TqmQd99StA--&#38;dg=0&#38;b=461" target="_newWindow">;friendid=z1HluB4R8Zd7TqmQd99StA--&#38;dg=0&#38;b=461</a>
Posted by Johni Depp (10 comments )
Link Flag
"Dig deeper"
Yes, indeed, do please "dig deeper"...

<i>"SCO accuses AutoZone of infringing SCO's Unix copyrights by using Linux,"</i>

Er, no... SCO is accusing AutoZone of continuing to use "SCO's IP", in the form <b>SCO OpenServer <i>shared libraries</i></b>, in [Red Hat] Linux, the distribution, without a license. This has nothing to do with SCO's "all but abandoned" claim of SCO IP being in the Linux kernel, and SCO is most certainly not suing AutoZone over "the use of Linux", anymore than they are suing DaimlerChrysler for the same thing.

However, the fact that you seem to have fallen victim to SCO's FUD on the matter and are confusing the issues shows that, if nothing else, SCO is at least succeeding in pulling the wool over the media's eyes... so, please, un-fog your glasses and do... "dig deeper".
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
So Long SCO, it was Real
Like anyone with SCO Unix sw and/or stock will want to keep either after this debacle. Rather than invest their hard-earned $$$ in making the OS competitive with Linux, the lord high mucky-mucks at SCO would rather invest in lawyers.

Now that's a really sound business plan, NOT. Ok, so Bill "son of the Antichrist" Gates uses it. But SCO doesn't nearly have the $$$ to p*** away like M$ux does.
Posted by tbbrickzd (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Open Source
Open source isn't about profit, it's about ideas and innovation. It's about open source and sharing your idea with others who improve upon them and share them with others.

As long as I am in computers, I will always hold Linux highly and will always embrace it's price for it represents the true nature of the Internet. Open Communication...
Posted by ajm149 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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