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Novell Copyrights on SCO's UnixWare 2.1
Friday, July 14 2006 @ 01:01 PM EDT

I came across an article from July 14, 1999 in Red Herring about the IBM purchase of Sequent, which led me to one about Doug Michels and Santa Cruz, which caused me to look at the copyright file on some UnixWare CDs. Please come along with me for what was, to me, an interesting journey.

The Red Herring article goes into why IBM wanted to buy Sequent:
IBM unveiled plans yesterday to purchase Sequent Computer Systems, a move that gives Big Blue another small but strategic soldier in its battle to take on other titans of server hardware. For the $810 million purchase price, IBM is scooping just a handful of greenbacks out of its $5.4 billion bucket of cash reserves in exchange for a fast-track entry to the market for large transaction-processing server computers that run on Intel chips.

Sequent is noted for its multiprocessor NUMA (which stands for non-uniform memory architecture) servers that make the most out of Intel chips by allowing up to 64 of them to run in a single box that handles a large number of transactions, similar to a mainframe. ...

"It's the cheapest and easiest way for IBM to establish itself for the Merced processor," says William Frerichs, an analyst with DA Davidson. He points out that IBM had not previously disclosed a strategy for using Intel's long-awaited high-performance server processor, code-named Merced. "All of IBM's competitors are going to have to re-valuate their positions," he says.

As you can see IBM didn't buy SCO to get NUMA, but Sequent. Of course, we know how Merced worked out and how all the delays impacted Project Monterey, but the article is from the time when Project Monterey was just getting started, before things began going wrong:

So recently, IBM banded together with Sequent and the Santa Cruz Operation to combine their three flavors of Unix into a single version, dubbed Monterey, that will run on Merced. That relationship also has the endorsement of Intel, which has been pushing for years to consolidate the various Unix OSs so that software programmers can easily adapt more types of software to Intel chips.

However, most people who use the SCO version of Unix bought it through Compaq, a key IBM rival in the server space.

OK. So you've got the time frame, right? This is before IBM donated to Linux whatever SCO objects to. Yet another article, linked with this one, from that same time period points out that Linux was already eating SCO's lunch in August of 1999, which is before IBM pulled out of Project Monterey too. Red Hat had just IPO'd when the article, an interview with Santa Cruz's Doug Michels, was written, and there's a link to a third article titled "Red Hat scored big with its IPO". One of the subheadings in the article about Michels is "Everybody Loves Linux." Evidently, then, IBM had nothing to do with that happening. In fact, the article says Michels was having to provide service to customers who were demanding Linux:

The question of competition from Linux, however, is a valid one, since Linux's potential market -- price-sensitive small-business operations looking for a stable computing platform -- accurately describes SCO's current customer base. In terms of perception, Linux is hot right now, with a funny, likable spokesperson in the form of lead programmer Linus Torvalds. And since Mr. Michels's party took place just a few days after the successful Red Hat IPO, Linux was on everyone's lips (as was the tasty chicken and beef kebabs).... SCO's stock price lingers in the single digits. And even though SCO's software offerings are well-tested, fireproofed, secure and scalable, and cost far less than most Unix platforms, customers want to know about Linux.

"Of course my customers are asking about Linux," says one SCO reseller, who preferred to remain anonymous. "And to be truthful, SCO stinks when it comes to support. They need to give us better tools to compete."

Anyway, it was the mention of Compaq that explained what had been a mystery to me. I had obtained a 2-CD set of what was titled "SCO UnixWare 2.1 From Compaq, Release 3.10" from a Groklaw member some time ago, and I wondered why Compaq was named on the set of CDs, what the relationship was. I thought it would be interesting to see what the UnixWare copyrights said.

The CDs themselves are stamped copyright 1994-96 Compaq and Santa Cruz, of course. But what about inside? What about the code? Specifically, what about the UnixWare copyright? By 1996, Santa Cruz had purchased whatever it purchased from Novell. The contract between Novell and Santa Cruz is dated September 19, 1995. So, if the copyrights were part of the deal, as new SCO alleges, it ought to show up there. I went to the UnixWare folder, opened it and then the install folder, and there I found the copyright file. I took a screenshot for you.

As you can clearly see Novell is still listed as the copyright owner for the years 1984 to 1995. If the copyrights had been part of the deal, this notice would be wrong. If Novell retained the copyrights on everything from 1984-1995, then the notice is correct. Santa Cruz then would hold copyright on whatever it added to UnixWare from then on, which is what I see in this notice.

If the copyrights had actually transferred, as newSCO needs them to have done, Novell would not properly be listed here as still holding those copyrights. Interesting, huh?

It's not definitive, because maybe Santa Cruz was just sloppy, but they had to add their copyright, and they did, for 1996, so we can't say they just forgot about the copyright file, and we'd need Compaq to be sloppy too. In copyright law, only a document of transfer is sufficient. But it's one more piece of evidence that Novell did in fact retain the copyrights, just as it says it did, and despite whatever anyone may say today digging back into faded memories and in the atmosphere of litigation, this quiet notice is evidence in black and white that finally convinces me that somebody at Santa Cruz knew it had not obtained the Novell copyrights.


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