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Answering SCO Bit by Bit: a.out.h, errno.h and the GPL
Monday, December 14 2009 @ 08:53 AM EST

In SCO's letter to Unix licensees in December of 2003, signed by Ryan Tibbitts, who is still at SCO, one of the files listed as allegedly infringed was this one, on page 2 of the PDF [PDF]:
Another was this one:
And of course, it was SCO's position that it never released any of its own code under the GPL. However, I was just looking at the source of that very file, linux-include, in the Caldera distribution OpenLinux eServer 2.3, and you'll never guess what I found.

Warning if you are on dialup: graphics ahead.

I find include/linux/a.out.h and include/asm-i386/errno.h as well as the name of a Caldera employee, Torsten Duwe, and the GPL referenced, as well as the credit to Caldera Systems and a mention of The CD is copyrighted 2000, and printed on the CD it says that source code for OpenLinux eServer 2.3 was available at It's available on the CD as well, happily, since SCO has removed the page listed on the CD, as they have so much that Groklaw published that shows they have been serving up an order of baloney.

So I opened it up from the CD in emacs, linux-kernel-include-2.2.14-1S.i386.rpm, and there's the very a.out.h and errno.h files listed as verboten, as big as life, in Caldera's very own product..

Maybe it's best if I just show you some screenshots of what I saw:

I take it that this means Caldera shipped a modded linux kernel, and they shipped it under the GPL. To the extent that that kernel contained code enabling the loading of ELF or a.out binaries, I would take it that they shipped that code under the GPL. Did you notice elf.h in there? Me too.

Isn't this fun? Funny, too.

Here's what a.out.h is, by the way, if you don't know, taken from documentation for SCO OpenServer in 2003:

a.out(FP) is not part of any currently supported standard; it is an extension of AT&T System V provided by The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc.
So, this would be code that SCO Group would claim as Santa Cruz's successor in interest. Of course, they would stress its proprietary nature in 2003. By then, they were battening down the hatches and turning the ship around as fast as they could. But not fast enough to remove the past. And it was released by Caldera prior to that stern description.

Here's why the 2003 letter from Tibbitts said it was improper to use the files on the list in Linux:

Certain copyrighted application binary interfaces (“ABI Code”) have been copied verbatim from our copyrighted UNIX code base and contributed to Linux for distribution under the General Public License (“GPL”) without proper authorization and without copyright attribution. While some application programming interfaces (“API Code”) have been made available over the years through POSIX and other open standards, the UNIX ABI Code has only been made available under copyright restrictions. AT&T made these binary interfaces available in order to support application development to UNIX operating systems and to assist UNIX licensees in the development process. The UNIX ABIs were never intended or authorized for unrestricted use or distribution under the GPL in Linux. As the copyright holder, SCO has never granted such permission. Nevertheless, many of the ABIs contained in Linux, and improperly distributed under the GPL, are direct copies of our UNIX copyrighted software code. Any part of any Linux file that includes the copyrighted binary interface code must be removed. Files in Linux version 2.4.21 and other versions that incorporate the copyrighted binary interfaces include:
Then came the list, but as you can see from the screenshots, they had long before 2003 and long before Linux 2.4.21 shipped out those files, aout.h and errno.h and elf.h, in their distribution of OpenLinux, as you can see with your own eyes, under the GPL. I think SCO needs to sue itself and leave the rest of us alone.

Now, I happened upon these, but I'll bet if any of you have Caldera's products, or OpenServer, for that matter, if you carefully checked bit by bit, you'll find more, especially if you are programmers, because you'll notice things I surely would not. Emacs shows more than if you open it in something like KWrite, by the way. I love emacs.

Happy hunting.

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