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
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.