SCO's McBride: Newly Discovered IP Violations Prompted Linux Letter

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Word about the SCO Group's latest Linux attack spread across the Internet Wednesday at the speed of a particularly virulent computer virus.

Chat boards, Web logs and Internet news services lit up with news that the embattled company--which claims its Unix code has been illegally included in Linux--had sent notices to thousands of corporations warning that they could be liable for using the open-source operating system.

Accusations are flying that Lindon, Utah-based SCO is trying to bolster its own health by weakening Linux. Observers have charged SCO is simply trying to score a fat licensing deal or get acquired by a larger, more powerful company with legal threats and lawsuits.

But through the firestorm, SCO CEO Darl McBride maintains that the company is just trying to protect its intellectual property.

"Ask any other company or any other CEO of a company that has intellectual property what they would do if they have come across what we have come across," said McBride in an interview with CRN.

McBride said SCO has used the several months since it launched a $1 billion lawsuit against IBM for allegedly giving parts of Unix code to developers of Linux to evaluate IBM's AIX Unix as well as several distributions of Linux. Three separate groups of independent consultants found multiple violations of SCO's intellectual property in the Linux operating systems, he claims.

"Part of this analysis strengthened [our] IBM case," he said. "We also found these other violations going on, and we need to come out and let users know."

McBride declined to reveal what parts of SCO's Unix code might have been used without permission, citing the pending IBM suit. (IBM officials have called that lawsuit frivolous.) He also declined to specify all of the Linux distributions that had been evaluated, although he named Red Hat's distribution as one of them.

McBride said SCO also believes Linux distributors do not warrant their software products, effectively passing on liability for potential intellectual property violations to the end user.

"We think that companies should go get their legal opinions," he said. "We will show them the evidence under very strict non-disclosure agreements because we are in a high-profile litigation with IBM."

McBride claims many vendors have known for some time about intellectual property problems in Linux. SCO wants to get the issues out on the table and is willing to meet with community leaders to work out a solution, he said. E-mails to Linux creator Linus Torvalds have gone unanswered, according to McBride.

"The Linux opportunity is pretty clear," he said. "The question is at what point in time are we going to get the IP roots in this discussion so Linux can have long and thriving life ahead of it. We need to get our heads out of sand on this IP issue and work out a solution that is viable to everyone."

In the meantime, SCO has been the target of a particularly harsh hate campaign by some open-source enthusiasts, McBride said. SCO has charged that a recent denial of service attack was the act of angry Linux fans, although the culprit of the attack has not been discovered.

McBride also said Wednesday that some Web postings have threatened drive-by shootings at the company's offices and security is being tightened around the Lindon office.

"The immaturity that this crowd is showing is not very impressive," said McBride.

Response from corporate leaders, McBride said, has been less antagonistic. He said several corporations have called to discuss the intellectual property issues, although he declined to specify which companies had called or how many calls had been fielded. SCO has set up a task force to handle these corporate inquiries, McBride said.

"The response from larger companies has been much different from folks out on Slashdot," he said.

Continued anger from the Linux community won't deter SCO's drive to protect its business, McBride said.

"We expected going in we would not win 'Miss Congeniality' with the Linux community," he said "Does that mean you shouldn't stand up for what's right?"

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