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"SCO Admits It Mightn't Own Unix Exclusively," Argues Columbia's Professor Moglen

SCO is only suing Novell "to stay afloat," Eben Moglen says.

In his third paper on the long-running SCO-IBM-Novell-Linux saga, provocatively entitled "Now They Own It, Now They Don't: SCO Sues Novell to Stay Afloat," Columbia University law professor Eben Oglen grasps the nettle as always.

In his latest paper, available on the OSDL Web site, Professor Moglen makes the point that SCO "admits, by suing Novell, that its claim to exclusive ownership of the Unix copyright is in doubt."

"Now They Own It, Now They Don't: SCO Sues Novell to Stay Afloat" is available in PDF form here.

His argument is that no judge would hold an end user liable for intentionally infringing SCO Group's rights when SCO Group itself has cast doubt on what it owns and that - as a result - Linux customers have little incentive to purchase a license from SCO Group and instead can and will wait for a final decision on who owns the copyrights as between SCO Group and Novell.

Moglen makes a second point, too. Once the litigation is resolved, he maintains, and regardless of who prevails, customers will still have the right to use the Linux code in question without purchasing a license from either SCO Group or Novell.

Moglen points out that both SCO Group and Novell (who recently purchased SuSE Linux, a distributor of Linux) have distributed the Linux code under the GPL. Since the GPL allows licensees to use, modify, copy and distribute the Linux code freely, the results of the litigation will have no affect on those rights, and customers will have no obligation to purchase another license from either SCO Group or Novell to ensure those rights.

The report ends as follows:

"If SCO’s licensing campaign fails to generate the revenues SCO has been predicting for potential investors—because it turns out that SCO never owned what it claimed to be legally entitled to force others to license— SCO and its principals will have plenty to answer for, and not just to its shareholders, but to the SEC as well. It is not good practice to attempt to force people to buy from you what you may not own. It is even worse practice to mislead investors into thinking that they will benefit from such sales without disclosing that you may not own what you are trying to sell. Now that SCO itself has begun unraveling this aspect of the situation, the end is in sight. The winter of SCO’s discontent is likely to give way to a glorious summer for open source software."

[Editorial note: If the somewhat in-your-face title of the paper were not enough in itself to hint of Professor Moglen's predispositions, then a LinuxWorld reader points out that one needs always to bear in mind that Moglen's stated aim is: "Try to create freedom by destroying illegitimate power sheltered behind intellectual property law."]

 

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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