Linux: no longer free?

There is now a real (legal) battle being waged around Linux, the most
diffuse Operating System in the world. Accusation, counter-accusations,
requests for damages, licences... The famous penguin is the symbol of this
free software, created (or better yet, ?started?) by Linus Torwalds. Now it
is at the centre of a legal dispute that risks clipping Linux?s wings and
transforming it into a normal Operating System, inaccessible to all of those
who have been working on improving it for years.

It is well-known that Linux is covered by a GPL (General Public Licence),
that allows anyone to copy, modify, and redistribute the source code at the
base of the Operating System, all freely and often without costs. But now,
just when they are predicting a definitive boom for Linux, a U.S. company
has decided to ?protect? its intellectual property. Holding the rights to
the UNIX system from which the kernel of Linux was freely taken, they have
announced a licencing program for Linux users and a series of lawsuits
against the IT companies that distribute this free Operating System without
being punished.

The accusations...

The lawsuits brought by the SCO Group (Santa Cruz Operation, with
headquarters in Lindon, Utah, USA) is following the steps that we have
become used to in this unending legal battles for presumed copyright
violations. Suits against companies ?guilty? of ?theft of intellectual
property,? which will go on to directly hit the pockets of the final user.
In this case, the first company under fire from SCO is the giant IBM. It is
?accused? of having included in some of its Linux administration software,
as well as in Linux itself, parts of the UNIX source code that is property
of SCO. The plaintiff states that this thereby violates their licence for
AIX software, which is based on UNIX. Therefore, the company has repealed
its AIX licence and asked for 3 billion dollars in damages from IBM.

This does not only represent a ?battle of the giants?, limited only to IBM,
but the ?first step in the affirmation of our rights.? In fact, again
according to SCO, because Linux contains entire lines of code ?with many
comments? copied directly from the Operating System Unix System V, which is
property of SCO, consumers who intend to use Linux are obliged to buy a
users? licence directly from SCO. The company has also released the prices
of this licence, equal to 199 dollars for use on a desktop computer desktop
and 699 dollars for use on a server with a single CPU. These prices, SCO
announced, are ?promotional?, and will be doubled in October. Therefore, it
is a direct attack on the pockets of the final user. These prices are quite
high for software that is more stable and performs better than it
competitors, but also much more expensive to configure and administrate.


.... and the reactions

Naturally, SCO?s actions and affirmations have provoked a series of
reactions on the part of the community that has supported free software and
the same Linus Operating System for years. The first response was that of
IBM. In a countersuit, they contest the revocation of the AIX licence which
IBM permanently bought for 10 million dollars from Novell Software, which at
the time was the holder of all rights concerning Unix, as well as any
possibility of violation of copyright. Their reasoning states that because
SCO itself has ?distributed its own free software under GPL", therefore, it
cannot substantiate the existence of any copyright (or even ask for the
payment of a licence free) on Linux source codes freely distributed by SCO
itself.

But Big Blue certainly has not remained isolated. Red Hat, at the moment the
largest distributor of Linux, has rushed to IBM?s side. Red Hat in turn has
filed a suit, articulated in 7 different points, against SCO. The suit is
for ?unfair and deceptive? behaviour and public declarations that are
fundamentally ?unsubstantiated and untrue?, that ?attack the integrity of
the development process of open software. Red Hat also expects an explicit
declaration on the part of SCO of ?non-violation of copyright" as far as
Linux is concerned, and the cessation of actions ?aimed at creating an
atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and doubt around Linux" as well as ?slowing
down the growth of Linux". Lastly, Red Hat has announced the foundation of a
fund for the defense of Linux, in which it has deposited 1 million dollars.
Its is said to be hopeful that other companies will also want to
participate.

In the debate, the Free Software Foundation has also spoken up. Speaking
through the voice of their General Counsellor Eben Moplen pointed out the
inconsistency of the suit of the SCO Group. In fact, in a note, (Copyright �
Free Software Foundation, 2003) the FSF reminds that "as far as the protests
about industrial secrets, which are the only effective moves in the suit
against IBM, the simple fact remains that for years, SCO has distributed
copies of the kernel, Linux, as part of GNU/Linux systems. These systems
have been distributed by SCO in complete respect of the GPL, and therefore,
they included entire source codes. In this way SCO itself has published, as
part of its own normal activity, the material that it now professes to
include in its own industrial secrets. There simply is no legal basis on
which SCO can declare others have violated industrial secrets with material
that they themselves have published diffusely, with a licence that
specifically allows them to unlimited copying and distribution.".

It continues: "This same fact is an unsurmountable obstacle with respect to
the affirmations according to which "Linux" violates the Copyright of SCO on
the UNIX source code". Nonetheless, "even if SCO should demonstrate that
some parts of its own UNIX source code have been copied in the kernel, the
accusation of Copyright violation would fail on the fact that SCO itself has
distributed the kernel under the terms of the GPL. By doing this, SCO has
allowed anyone to copy, modify and redistribute that code. Now SCO cannot
turn around and claim to have sold code according to the terms of the GPL,
guaranteeing the right to copy, modify, and redistribute whatever is
included, but that in some way it did not concede these rights nor the
redistribution of any material contained, in which they hold the Copyright".

The FSF concludes its note, from which we have already quoted large parts,
underlining the following: "In front of these facts, the public declarations
of SCO are therefor misleading and irresponsible. SCO has easily profited
from the work of those who have supplied contributions from all over the
world. Their current public declarations constitute a vulgar abuse of the
principles of the Free Software community, on the part of a member that has
used all of our work for its own economic gain. The Free Software Foundation
invites SCO to retract their inconsiderate and irresponsible declarations
and to proceed to immediately separate their own commercial disagreements
with IBM from its own duties and its own responsibility in front of the Free
Software community.".


Searching for the truth

However, the situation continues to be confused. And the protagonists of
this situation have certain interests in resolving this problem, at least
for the moment. And it is more than likely that this series of suits and
countersuits will be resolved outside of the courts, given that a judicial
debate is so long and, especially expensive, which does not suit either
parties. For the moment, the situation gives the advantage to SCO, which has
seen its stock prices rise vertiginously, right now that the Group would
like to buy its rival company Vultus. Uncertainty reigns among the thousands
of companies that distribute or sell Linux, who have already been ?advised?
through a letter from the same SCO Group about the possibility of legal
action for presumed copyright violations. For the moment only one company
has accepted to pay SCO for the licence to be able to integrate Linux into
its systems. But it is not certain that others will not follow. The one who
is waiting and watching (and laughing) is without a doubt Microsoft, which
can only take advantage of this battle.

Will this be the end of Linux as free software? At least this time we would
like to be optimistic. It is much better to keep Linux free and accessible,
also from the economic point of view, than to leave the world of software
once again in the hands of the giant from Redmond. Which has been afraid for
some time...afraid of the penguin.


Adem Sehovic
(trans. by Miranda Drew)

--
Regard: Joh@nnes
"If U know neither the enemy nor yourself,U will succumb in every battle"
0
Johannes
8/26/2003 8:14:00 PM
grc.techtalk 27358 articles. 1 followers. Follow

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Did you just find out about this?  It has been going on for months.  No 
one (well practically no one) in the linux community is particularly 
concerned.  Eweek just had an interview with Linus about it ... there 
have been reviews of the code that SCO had released that they clain is 
in violation ... no one seems to agree with their assessement, etc.

MikeD
0
MikeD
8/26/2003 8:48:00 PM
MikeD wrote:

> Did you just find out about this?  It has been going on for months.  No 
> one (well practically no one) in the linux community is particularly 
> concerned.  Eweek just had an interview with Linus about it ... there 
> have been reviews of the code that SCO had released that they clain is 
> in violation ... no one seems to agree with their assessement, etc.
> 
> MikeD

exactly, SCO has many, many problems with this case, and it would 
certainly seem that they have absolutely no intention of this suit going 
into a court room
if it does, that will pretty much be the end of SCO.
lamlaw.com
0
Steve
8/26/2003 8:56:00 PM
In message <bigf8u$mgi$1@news.grc.com>, Johannes Niebach 
<sniebach@sprint.ca> writes:

>
>Will this be the end of Linux as free software?

No way, thank goodness.

-- 
Jim Crowther                  "It's MY computer" (tm SMG)
One way to escape spam: <http://popfile.sourceforge.net/>
And another very good one:      <http://keir.net/k9.html>
0
Jim
8/26/2003 11:39:00 PM
On Tue, 26 Aug 2003 16:14:35 -0400, "Johannes Niebach"
<sniebach@sprint.ca> wrote:

>Will this be the end of Linux as free software?

If SCO were the sole owner, it would be the end of the OS altogether.

Another fine opinion provided by:

Rudy
0
not
8/27/2003 1:35:00 PM
Steve <joe@mama.net> wrote in news:3F4BC970.4070108@mama.net:

> exactly, SCO has many, many problems with this case, and it would 
> certainly seem that they have absolutely no intention of this suit
> going into a court room
> if it does, that will pretty much be the end of SCO.
> lamlaw.com
> 

Actually it seems to me that unelss they can make it to the court room 
and luck out and get a clueless judge and IBM, et. al. decide to hire 
"Dewy Chearam & Howe" as their legal team (no insult intended to the 
law firm of the same name that helps the Car Talk guys <weg>), then I 
don't think that SCO will be around long <sigh>  

I mean ... who is going to do business with them after this?  I know I 
will never reccomend them again.

MikeD
0
MikeD
8/27/2003 7:37:00 PM
"Johannes Niebach" <sniebach@sprint.ca> wrote in message
news:bigf8u$mgi$1@news.grc.com...
> There is now a real (legal) battle being waged around Linux, the most
> diffuse Operating System in the world.

Dang!  When I first read this sentence, I thought it said the most difficult
operating system in the world. And I was going to agree.
0
middletree
8/27/2003 10:19:00 PM
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