Print 19 comment(s) - last by sprockkets.. on Jul 24 at 11:57 AM

Leak from biased source obviously will draw skepticism from the open-source community

IBM, which is among the largest firms pushing the open-source Linux operating system, was slammed with a $1B USD lawsuit in 2003 from SCO, one of the owners of a Unix distribution. The lawsuit alleged that IBM ripped off Linux code from the Unix codebase and was "devaluing" it.  

The damages eventually swelled to $5B USD, but SCO was defeated when Novell was shown to hold most of the applicable Unix intellectual property and Novell waived the case.  In the end, SCO filed for bankruptcy, and the Novell loss resulted in a ruling that SCO owes Novell $2.35M USD for copyright infringements (a total later bumped to $3.4M USD).

Even as SCO is appealing [PDF] that decision, Kevin McBride, a lawyer and brother of former SCO CEO Darl McBride has released [see comments section] a wealth of documents showing 
some of the code that SCO claimed IBM's Linux ripped off.

He writes:

While UNIX ownership rights are still not finally settled (pending SCO’s appeal of Novell’s jury victory in March, 2010) it is certainly my view, after careful review of all these issues, that Linux DOES violate UNIX copyrights, particularly in ELF code and related tools (debugger code, etc.), header file code wherein implementation code (not just the header interface) have been copied verbatim; STREAMS code; etc. that the Linux community use without license. Then there is the entire question of the overall structure and sequence of Linux being almost an exact copy of UNIX.
There should be little question by anyone at this point that Linux uses a LOT of UNIX code. The Linux world thinks that use is permissive. SCO disagreed. That is the only real issue to be discussed here.
Will Novell win the current SCO appeal? Probably. Will Novell donate the UNIX copyrights to the Linux community if it wins the current appeal? Probably–although Novell’s Linux activities have been difficult to predict in recent years. But does Linux violate UNIX copyrights? Yes.
So, in my opinion, Linux users owe Novell–and particularly its excellent Morrison & Forrester legal team–a huge debt for coming to the rescue and keeping Linux a royalty-free product.

And follows up:

SCO submitted a very material amount of literal copying from UNIX to Linux in the SCO v. IBM case. For example, see the following excerpts from SCO’s evidence submission in Dec. 2005 in the SCO v. IBM case:
Tab 422Tab 421Tab 420Tab 419Tab 418Tab 417Tab 416Tab 415Tab 414Tab 413Tab 412Tab 411Tab 410Tab 409Tab 333Tab 332Tab 331;Tab 330Tab 329Tab 255Tab 254Tab 253Tab 252Tab 251Tab 250Tab 249Tab 248Tab 247Tab 246Tab 245Tab 244Tab 243Tab 242Tab 241;Tab 240Tab 239Tab 238Tab 237Tab 236Tab 235Tab 234Tab 233Tab 232Tab 231Tab 230Tab 229.
There was MUCH more submitted in the SCO v. IBM case that I cannot disclose publicly because it is comparison of code produced by IBM under court protective order that prohibits disclosure.
But the court in SCO v. IBM will probably never decide whether use of this (and all the other UNIX code) in Linux was, or was not permissive, because in the SCO v. Novell case, the jury decided in March 2010 that Novell owns the UNIX copyrights, not SCO.
As I mentioned in the reply to Andreas, if you Linux guys want to give credit where credit is due, you should all thank Novell for having the courage to take the case all the way to trial (I thought SCO had a much stronger case the on ownership question) and its legal counsel, Morrison & Forrester, for doing an outstanding job for Novell at trial–Michael Jacobs, Eric Acker and Sterling Brennan.

In case those links no longer work, you can also get a collected archive of the PDFs here.

Looking briefly at the code involved some of it indeed appears to be copied and pasted, or at least designed using common design documents.  The fact that so many named variables match up would certainly indicate that.  However, the order of the code has been rearranged and there have been numerous deletions and insertions in these sections.

Further, some of the segments of code included are pretty generic.  In these cases it is harder to tell whether the code was indeed copied as claimed, or just implemented similarly.

Ultimately, whether the code was copied or not may prove a moot point, as the jury trial resoundingly declared Novell to own the Unix code.  And Novell is not interested in suing IBM at the present.  Unless SCO's appeal, filed in U.S. Federal 10th Circuit on July 7, 2010 succeeds, this leak may merely prove an interesting footnote in this case, which is of extreme importance to the open source movement.

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Good grief
By asuffield on 7/12/2010 1:04:39 PM , Rating: 4
This is their smoking gun? I've looked at a few of these, and so far, the code is significantly and obviously different. In fact, it's quite obvious that the code was *not* copied (as comments have been retyped with different punctuation and capitalisation), but rather both of them were implemented from the same specification document - probably POSIX or SuS.

RE: Good grief
By w1z4rd on 7/12/2010 2:03:39 PM , Rating: 2
I have to agree with you... its rather surprising

RE: Good grief
By fic2 on 7/12/2010 2:33:44 PM , Rating: 2
I randomly clicked on some of the links. It seemed like they were all header files and structures which would be spec'd by a document like you said.

RE: Good grief
By Samus on 7/13/2010 4:40:21 AM , Rating: 2
when it comes to addressing a device hardware ID or basic memory management & allocation, there aren't really a whole lot of ways to do it.

Similarities in this department will likely just result in coincidence, which they probably are.

This is like Microsoft suing everyone for initializing a X and Y axis of a mouse.

RE: Good grief
By macthemechanic on 7/15/2010 8:32:15 AM , Rating: 2
Now that WOULD be funny, since Microsoft did not invent the mouse.

With all this heat on Linux...
By UnauthorisedAccess on 7/12/2010 6:51:20 PM , Rating: 3
...I haven't seen any mention of BSD.

BSD has more roots in Unix, can someone enlighten me why they're able to lie low during these massive court cases?

Also, if they do somehow crush Linux (which I don't believe they will ever do), won't the whole community just jump to BSD? I can't see the bearded hardcore basement coders going 'You win Microsoft, I guess I'll use the Windows 7 Telescreen now.'.

RE: With all this heat on Linux...
By thurston on 7/12/2010 8:44:03 PM , Rating: 2
By sprockkets on 7/24/2010 11:57:46 AM , Rating: 2
Well, they haven't examined their code, or perhaps they don't have an IBM to sue behind them...

IBM is a big contributor to the kernel. The community of developers already said they wanted to know what the code was so as to remove it.

At this point, I'm not sure what the point is of suing when your company has no money left.

"The trick is to quit while you're still ahead." - Natalia

By Ahnilated on 7/12/2010 1:26:08 PM , Rating: 2
Apparently SCO is still trying to keep this in the media even though they have lost this case 3 times. They have almost been laughed out of court with the lack of evidence. They will never give up and should just be sued out of existence.

By Darkk on 7/13/2010 12:06:01 AM , Rating: 2
I am sure by now going through the posts above you come to the conclusion that there are so many twists and turns as how UNIX was envolved over the years.

Imagine a court setting the judge thinking the same thing.

I think the original verdict will remain despite the numerous finger pointing.


Shock. Awe.
By DEVGRU on 7/12/10, Rating: -1
RE: Shock. Awe.
By MozeeToby on 7/12/2010 11:40:59 AM , Rating: 3
The question is whether or not the code Linux got from UNIX was part of ATT's UNIX codebase or if it was part of the Berkley UNIX codebase (BSD). If the former they could, in theory be sued for infringement (but not by SCO since the courts ruled that SCO isn't the owner of the old ATT codebase). If it's the later then the code is released under an open source license and is open to everyone to use provided they follow the license.

The fact that both Linux and ATT's UNIX were both built off the BSD code makes this kind of simplistic analysis meaningless, of course they will share common code, they both got it (legally) from the same place. Now, if someone has snapshots of what the BSD code looked like when the UNIX and Linux bases branched off, and included that in the analysis you might be able to say something meaningful, but just comparing UNIX to Linux isn't going to do it.

RE: Shock. Awe.
By Jeffk464 on 7/12/2010 12:15:27 PM , Rating: 2
I know, I thought the fact that it was derived from unix is what made it popular for IT?

RE: Shock. Awe.
By Jeffk464 on 7/12/2010 12:17:30 PM , Rating: 2
Now if only we could have gotten google's money behind a full blown linux distro, instead of stripped down Chrome.

RE: Shock. Awe.
By melgross on 7/12/2010 1:02:54 PM , Rating: 5
Actually, it was the Bell Labs of AT&T that first developed UNIX.

From Wikipedia, though the info is widely known, and available from many sources:

The 1970s and 1980s saw more and more computer-related inventions at the Bell Laboratories as part of the personal computing revolution. In 1970 Dennis Ritchie developed the compiled C programming language as a replacement for the interpretive B for use in writing the UNIX operating system (also developed at Bell Laboratories). The original version of UNIX awk was designed and implemented by Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger, and Brian Kernighan of Bell Laboratories.

The Berkley system is a derivative.

RE: Shock. Awe.
By Looey on 7/12/2010 6:14:15 PM , Rating: 2
"The fact that both Linux and ATT's UNIX were both built off the BSD code makes this kind of simplistic analysis meaningless, of course they will share common code, they both got it (legally) from the same place."

This is false. UNIX was invented at Bell Labs which was part of Western Electric.

RE: Shock. Awe.
By phxfreddy on 7/13/2010 1:16:21 AM , Rating: 1
Should not vote him down. Might be legitimate point. And legitimate point seems to be explained well away by repliers.

Ignores Common Origin
By MozeeToby on 7/12/10, Rating: -1
"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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