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To read comments to this article, go here
"Running Dog Linux" with its Tail Between its Legs
Monday, May 19 2003 @ 02:15 PM EDT

SCO is now openly being accused of being financed by Microsoft. It's in today's Wall St. Journal. Don't go there unless you like to subscribe and pay. I got the news from Newscan which is a daily summary of top news, a very helpful service.

Now, as to SCO's public claim that if it released its Linux distribution under the GPL, it did so inadvertently and that if it happened it must have been by an employee who didn't have authorization, I invite you to take a trip back in SCO history:

Here is the SCO page where they list the GPL-licensed elements in their products. You might find their list of press releases from 2000 interesting, just from their titles. Remember that SCO is their now-name; in 2000 they were Caldera. Interestingly, some of the ones that would appear to be most damaging to their claim can't be accessed by Wayback Archive, because of SCO's robot.txt file. For example, one press release on the list is:

SCO and Industry Leaders Establish Free Standards Group Group Drives Linux Standardization Effort to Support Next Generation of Products and Services in the Linux Market May 10, 2000

That press release is listed on Wayback as being here.

Another one you can't get to is:

CO Unveils Linux Strategy Linux Products, Services, and Investments Become Pivotal Part of SCO's Server-Based Network Computing Strategy February 2, 2000

That is listed as being here, but I can't access it, though Wayback has no trouble accessing any press release listed on the 2000 page that clearly has no relationship to the case. (Note: another try May 23, 2003 worked, or at least resolved to a press release.)

Even on documents that are still available on SCO's site, the GPL is not only mentioned, it is explained and posted. For example, in their OpenLinux Install Documentation, the introduction is titled "Where did Linux come from?" and it helpfully explains the GPL thus:

" Linux was started in the early 1990s as a small research project by a Finnish college student named Linus Torvalds. Soon after Linus started his project, hundreds of others began to participate in its development via the Internet. A cooperative venture grew in which thousands of people were working together to create a new operating system. The inclusion of the GNU utilities from the Free Software Foundation (see http://www.fsf.org) and the release of Linux under the Gnu General Public License (GPL) furthered the spread of this work. The GPL provides that the source code to the software is released with the product and that no one can restrict access to it. Software licensed under the GPL license is sometimes referred to as Open Source software. With this type of software, anyone can examine and extend the source code, but all such work must be released for public use. Other licenses provide for inclusion of source code with its associated software, but to date the GPL is the most common Open Source license."

It then adds that "Programs that run on Linux don't have to be licensed under the GPL or any other Open Source license. Thousands of commercial applications that you can run on Linux (such as Corel WordPerfect 8 or Oracle 8 Server) use commercial licenses; they are not "GPLed," and do not include source code, thus they cannot be freely distributed. The Linux product you have purchased is built upon the work of thousands of individuals, then assembled and packaged by Caldera Systems, Inc. More complete histories of Linux and the free software and Open Source development communities are available in many of the online and printed resources named at the end of this chapter."

It raises the question: if they violated the GPL, which voids the license and their rights to GPLd code end and everything reverts to copyright law, in which case they had no rights to release OpenLinux at all, are they now subject to claims of copyright infringement by the Free Software Foundation and the "thousands of people" who worked together to create a new operating system? I would imagine Yes. Presumably that would mean they could be subject to monetary damages. Normally, FSF doesn't do stuff like that, but I wonder if they might make an exception. I have no inside knowledge, just thinking aloud.

"About the GNU Tools" the same guidebook says:

"The GNU toolchain is a set of compilers and development tools that are the foundation of the Linux development environment and are also supported on many other platforms. These and other handy development tools are available at the www.gnu.org website. Built versions of many of these tools are included on the Caldera OpenLinux Workstation, either in the main development system or on the 'contrib' CD.

"All source code for GNU tools is available; anyone can download, build, and use them for free. You can also download the current 'Top of Tree' and make modifications to the tools that are needed. If you fix a bug or add a significant feature, you should contribute it back to the community, although this is not required if you do not distribute your altered software. If you distribute such work, you are actually required to distribute your source and contribute it back to thw owner of the original software. See http://gcc.gnu.org for more information about participating in this work; always consult with your own legal authorities about your specific rights and obligations for any work you are doing.Several different license types can be used for code that is contributed to the Open Source community. See www.opensource.org for an overview of the terms and restrictions of the different licenses.

"Note that you are not required to provide the source for an application that is created using the GNU toolchain. You must, however, carefully check the license type of all libraries that are used in the code: libraries that are covered by a GPL can only be used in free software; libraries that are covered by an LGPL can be used in free or proprietary software. The www.gnu.org web page provides more information about the terms of the different licenses; when in doubt, consult your legal experts." "

Say, that's good advice. How likely is it that they didn't do so themselves, or that they had no knowledge that under the GPL, if you release a product built on it that the whole is released as GPL also? Slim or None?

In their guide for developers, they clearly state that Linux is "a UNIX-like operating system" and Linux and GNU tools are released under the GPL:

"The Linux operating system and the GNU toolchain are released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). The GPL provides that the source code to the software must be made available and that no one can restrict access to it. With this type of software, anyone can examine and extend the source code, but all such work must be released for public use. Other licenses provide for the inclusion of source code with its associated software, but GPL is the most common Open Source License. 1.2. What is OpenLinux?

"OpenLinux is Caldera's self-hosted source code Linux distribution that conforms to commercial software release procedures. OpenLinux is based on the most current stable open source technologies, but subjected to rigorous testing procedures similar to those used for proprietary operating systems."

On this page, they list SCO contributions to the Linux community, as they call it. And if you follow the links, you find one page that says they were releasing under the GPL: "Aim Benchmarks -- SCO is making Suites VII and IX of the AIM benchmarks available under the GPL. The Suites are now available to the community via download. The project will also be available on SourceForge soon." They even say on another page that they made contributions of code to the Linux kernel. If so, it wouldn't be a surprise if some code in the kernel might look like Unix code owned by SCO.

On a page describing "The Linux Support Team" they say that Caldera Open Linux distribution is based on LST Distribution, and that it is distributed under the GPL.

They have whole pages devoted to the GPL, in which they accurately explain how it works. For example, here it says: "This General Public License does not permit incorporating your program into proprietary programs. If your program is a subroutine library, you may consider it more useful to permit linking proprietary applications with the library. If this is what you want to do, use the GNU Library General Public License instead of this License."

And on another page, they say: "Printed below is the GNU General Public License (the GPL or copyleft), under which Linux is licensed. It is reproduced here to clear up some of the confusion about Linux's copyright status--Linux is not shareware, and it is not in the public domain. The bulk of the Linux kernel is copyright 1993 by Linus Torvalds, and other software and parts of the kernel are copyrighted by their authors. Thus, Linux is copyrighted, however, you may redistribute it under the terms of the GPL printed below. "

Intriguingly, on this page of the Installation Guide, which explains Linux and gives some of its history, it says that Linux is a "UNIX operating system clone", with no AT&T code in is:

"What makes Linux so different is that it is a free implementation of UNIX. It was and still is developed cooperatively by a group of volunteers, primarily on the Internet, who exchange code, report bugs, and fix problems in an open-ended environment. Anyone is welcome to join the Linux development effort. All it takes is interest in hacking a free UNIX clone, and some programming know-how. The book in your hands is your tour guide. (later also says: Linux is a free version of UNIX developed primarily by Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki in Finland, with the help of many UNIX programmers and wizards across the Internet. Anyone with enough know-how and gumption can develop and change the system. The Linux kernel uses no code from AT&T or any other proprietary source, and much of the software available for Linux was developed by the GNU project of the Free Software Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. However, programmers from all over the world have contributed to the growing pool of Linux software." (See also SCO's OpenLinux Documentation page.)

Now Chris Sontag in an interview with MozillaQuest Magazine is saying something different:

"MozillaQuest Magazine: Darl also said in the CRN interview that "Linux comes from Unix and we own the Unix operating system." All the Linux kernel and GNU/Linux operating system people we have talked to say this is not true. They say that the Linux kernel and GNU/Linux were developed independently. They say that the Linux kernel and GNU/Linux operating system are not derived from Unix. Are you disputing what the Linux kernel and GNU/Linux people are saying about this? (Emphasis added.) Chris Sontag: Yes we are. This will all be brought out in court."

For any who are confused, this page explains who is who at SCO: "Note: Until 2001, the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO), a UNIX company, and Caldera International (CALD), a Linux company, were two different companies. In 2001, Caldera acquired SCO. Then in 2002 Caldera changed its business name to the SCO Group. However, the corporate name remains Caldera International. Many people still think of the SCO Group's Linux operations as Caldera. In order to make sure that readers would know and realize throughout the article that what is now the SCO Group is also the company once called Caldera, the SCO Group is often referred to as SCO-Caldera in this article."

So there you have it, folks. You don't need to be a programmer to figure out that their claim of inadvertent release under the GPL is not accurate, judging from this collection of documents.


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