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'We Now Definitively Own Unix & UnixWare Copyrights,' Says SCO

Everything's been registered now at the US Patent & Trademark Office

(July 21, 2003) - According to industry veteran Maureen O’Gara, whose weekly LinuxGram is distributed every Friday by Linux Business Week, the SCO Group is now saying that the US Patent and Trademark Office registered all the Unix and UnixWare copyrights that AT&T's Unix System Labs ever owned in SCO's name last week, “dispelling any lingering doubts,” as O’Gara puts it, “that SCO does in fact own them.”

According to O’Gara, now that that SCO has accomplished that, its CEO Darl McBride will start using the copyrights “to bring Linux users to the negotiating table to work out licenses.”

“SCO is going to start with the Global 1500 that it sent warning letters to a few weeks ago as well as government entities leaning towards or already embracing Linux,” she writes, adding: ”Ironically, SCO has been taunted and dismissed by such as Novell and Linux creator Linus Torvalds for not suing IBM on copyright grounds and hitting it instead with a $3 billion contract case.”

O’Gara quotes McBride as saying "Recovery comes down to the user. The legal issues are with the end users." In other words, his legal team has advised him that the end user, according to copyright law, is responsible for infringement. Whereas entities further up the food chain—such as consortia like the Open Source Development Lab, software distributors like Red Hat, and vendors like IBM—could only be nailed for “contributory infringement.”

These issues - the result of what McBride calls a "prima facie case of significant copyright infringement inside Linux" - could spiral into lawsuits, injunctions, and damages, he indicated, if the users don't come to book. Actually, he said, he'd prefer to avoid lawsuits, but SCO will do what it has to.

According to O’Gara, McBride says SCO doesn't have a formal licensing program in place yet and probably won't until mid-August when SCO Forum rolls around. His immediate plan is try "to work through the process with end users," then arrange to brief CIOs at the forum and maybe fly in SCO's high-profile litigator David Boies.

SCO evidently hasn't figured out yet exactly what the end-user licenses are going to cost, writes O’Gara, but she reports that McBride has confirmed that the price of UnixWare is the "benchmark" of the company's thinking. (UnixWare can run anywhere from $700 to several thousand dollars.)

The licenses will be for binary code, not source code, because of the GPL (General Public License), but O’Gara notes that McBride’s view is that the GPL is "on shaky ground" and needs "serious modifications." McBride told O’Gara that the users SCO has been talking to and showing code to for the last month and a half indicate they value a binary license. Apparently, according to SCO’s polls anyway, very few of them muck with source code.

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SYS-CON's Linux News Desk gathers stories, analysis, and information from around the Linux world and synthesizes them into an easy to digest format for IT/IS managers and other business decision-makers.

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