SCO and the GPL

Posted 10 Aug 2003 at 13:22 UTC by mrd Share This

This whole SCO vs IBM lawsuit could yet have a positive spin for the free software / open-source software (FOSS) community. So far the GNU General Public Licence (GPL) hasn't seen much testing in any court (AFAIK), so this could be the big chance to gain some certainty for the future.

The Caldera/SCO lawsuit against IBM provides us a unique opporuntity - to gain some (legal) certainty in the GPL.

IBM's recent countersuit tells us that IBM think that SCO are in violation of the GPL - still distributing GPL software despite trying to scare people into paying a license fee for the same. This is well documented by mbp over here. They can't have it both ways.

But what IS nice about all this is who is doing the sueing. It's SCO. A company whose product lines are decreasing in sales, and are reliant upon licensing fess for SysV Unix from Microsoft (somewhat bogusly) and Sun Microsystems to fund this last ditch effort. Their most recent SEC filing shows they're not doing very well, and the addition of Red Hat's suit against them is helping to drive their stock price even lower.

SCO really isn't in a strong position to defend IBM's claim that they're in breach of the GPL.

The best thing that could happen for our community is for IBM to take this all the way to court, and get a precident for GPL legality. This would give us developers great surety for the future, and it prevents other ambit claims arising against IBM for its use of Linux and open-source software. That would be win-win for IBM and the FOSS community.

I hope IBM don't settle, because another player such as the Great Satan could arise and challenge IBM over GPL legality again. And next time, it would be a harder battle to win - the bully is much bigger.

[As a footnote, one nice relatively un-cross-linked source is Grog's SCO analysis on why SCO's claim against IBM has little chance of succeeding. As a second footnote, I like the action others are taking against SCO with their local fair trading regulatory agencies. SCO will not do well after awaking the sleeping FOSS giant.]

I don't think this should be an article, posted 12 Aug 2003 at 14:35 UTC by chalst » (Master)

I don't think speculations about the SCO lawsuits, or reporting of related news is an appropriate topic for an advogato article, although they are excellent topics for diary entries. Something like Michael's recent post, although I did not like the article, is a reasonable class of SCO article, since it reports (and commences) an initiative that benefits from community involvement. Otherwise, can we call a stop to this?

re: The Article, posted 16 Aug 2003 at 20:08 UTC by Mysidia » (Journeyer)

I agree.

It's too soon to tell what if any effect this SCO fiasco will have on the GPL. It could easily have a major negative effect on it (from the Open Source point of view), so this "article" is indeed just speculation, and questionable speculation at that.

Why do you say that SCO isn't in a strong position to defend their claims? Seems like they've been working in almost utter secrecy to me. They could just as easily be right.

Maybe they'll actually be able to produce evidence of wroingdoing by IBM?

I don't think SCO's in violation the GPL [unless they made a bunch of changes recently], because:

  • They're not distributing GPL'ed software with additional license terms more restrictive

  • They made source code available for their distributions (fulfilling part 3).

  • They seem to have licensed the GPL'ed software they modified under the GPL.

- still distributing GPL software despite trying to scare people into paying a license fee for the same. This is well documented by mbp over here. They can't have it both ways.

Maybe. However, I doubt SCO intends to have it both ways. It's possible that they just want Linux dead, in the [potentially false] hope of licensing their UNIX products to Linux users.

The SCO bigwigs see what the Open Source developers have built and achieved with Linux and they envy it deeply, they see what damage it has done to their profitability in selling and licensing their inferior proprietary UNIX systems, and they want it gone, NOW!

SCO is a leech that would love to attach to all you Linux users out there. You would all move to SCO Unix [or another commercial *nix] if the free unices died, right?? No OS is free, ergo you must use a commercial one.

Presumably, SCO'll cease distribution of the software they claim contains their code, or choose to GPL their code [yeah right], if they're right, as soon as they prevail, since otherwise : yes, they would be in theoretical in violation of the GPL, as continuing to distribute Linux would be sublicensing unless they did fully GPL it.

Or maybe they're betting that Linux has so many developers that noone will ever be able to get them all together and mobilize them to prosecute SCO for copyright infringment, maybe they think they're safe because many of the developers aren't from the United States.

If SCO doesn't prevail -- then their code must not have been in there (or must have already been publicly available), and they're not in violation of the GPL (though then they've probably commited worse crimes like Fraud), so a bunch of people paid their "protection fee" for a worthless slip of paper.

I'm not sure SCO expects to prevail, maybe they don't. If they can just delay and keep this in the courts for a few years, then maybe they'll manage to discredit Linux and [perhaps] the Open Source movement in the eyes of some, with their periodic, deceitful press releases, even without any actual evidence that they haven't fabricated or forged themselves to "show" that their claims are at all founded.

For what other reasons would they put misleading supposed quotes of RMS, ESR, Torvalds... Or call Linux the equivalent of a bicycle ?

If they're this misleading in press releases, what do you expect they will do in court?

After seeing their "protection racket" licensing thing, i'd be concerned about them attempting to synthesize real evidence like forging supposed e-mails or documents, claiming code they stole from Linux was theirs originally, or intentionally having infringing code injected into the kernel for the very purpose of finding it.

What if they win that way, and get the GPL nullified huh? That would certainly be bad.

On the other hand, maybe this is all a big PR stunt, and they don't expect to win, they are just trying to go out with a bang.

Now there's some speculation :)

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!

Share this page