VARs Could Be Liable For SCO Copyright Infringement


What began in March as a contract dispute between The SCO Group and IBM over the use of Unix code in Linux evolved into a broader battle Monday as SCO said companies including Linux end users, vendors and solution providers could face litigation for copyright infringement.

SCO President and CEO Darl McBride said the company has received U.S. copyright registrations for Unix System V source code, which opens the door for the company to enforce those copyrights.

"The legal fairway we're working with here just got a lot wider," McBride said during a conference call.

However, McBride said SCO hopes to avoid litigation by agreeing not to sue commercial users of Linux based on kernel version 2.4.x and later that purchase a run-only, binary license for its UnixWare 7.1.3.

"We have a solution here that gets you clean, gets you square with the use of Linux without the courtroom," McBride said.

Under copyright laws, SCO could sue for both copyright infringement and contributory copyright infringement, said David Boies, managing partner of law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner and chief legal counsel for SCO. The latter could include Linux vendors as well as VARs and systems integrators, Boies said.

While SCO does not view end-user litigation as a first choice, the company is open to case-by-case litigation with companies that are not compliant with SCO's license requirements, Boise said. SCO does not have to wait for a settlement in its suit against IBM before bringing copyright infringement cases to court, he said.

The vendor plans to establish pricing for the license, which will be based on factors such as customer path, future Linux use and the number of servers, over the next few weeks, McBride said. Volume discounts will be available, he said.

I.D.E.A.L. Technology's Douglass Hock said he is skeptical of SCO's copyright-infringement claims.

"I don't feel they have much to go on at this point," said Hock, president of the Orlando, Fla.-based Linux solution provider. "Customers know that SCO has been a dying beast, and they see this as a last breath or effort to retain some sort of market share," he said.

SCO contends that Linux contains misappropriated Unix System V source code and derivative source code that contributed to Linux in a variety of areas, including multiprocessing capabilities that enable Linux to scale to 32- and 64-way processing.

"This isn't a matter of changing a line or two of code. If all of the infringing code were removed today, Linux would have little multiprocessor code left and would be totally ineffective for enterprise use," McBride said.