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Q&A: SCO's Chris Sontag on Linux, Unix and brewing legal fights

'There is inappropriate intellectual property in Linux,' he says

May 29, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - In two weeks, The SCO Group Inc. intends to begin showing analysts where the Unix code it owns has been illegally copied into the Linux kernel. The source code will be made available to parties who agree not to disclose the Unix source code, but they will be able to share publicly their assessments of SCO's claim. SCO has filed a $1 billion lawsuit against IBM alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and other claims and has warned some 1,500 businesses that they may be using Linux at their legal peril.
In an interview with Computerworld reporter Patrick Thibodeau, SCO's Chris Sontag, a senior vice president and general manager of SCOsource Division, the group within SCO in charge of enforcing the company's intellectual property, discussed the company's position.

Why should Linux users take your claim seriously? Think about if I was the CIO of a company and I'm going to be running my business on an operating system that has an intellectual property foundation that, by almost everyone's admission, is built on quicksand. There is no mechanism in Linux to ensure [the legality of] that intellectual property of the source code being contributed by various people. We fully believe there are many contributions made by good, hard-working individuals into Linux that are not of issue. But based on the research that we have done, we have identified specific Unix System V code for which we have ownership rights that have ended up in Linux against our wishes. There is inappropriate intellectual property in Linux. The development process has no one that is ensuring that inappropriate code is not getting into Linux. All that's there is an honor system, and obviously there are a few, at least, that have broken that honor.

Chris Sontag of The SCO Group Inc.
Chris Sontag of The SCO Group Inc.
Your letter to 1,500 end-user companies outlining your claim was vague. What is it that you want from these companies? The one thing that we specifically want from those 1,500 companies that we directly sent those letters to is for them to not take our word on the warning that we sent ... but to seek an opinion of their legal counsel as to the issues that we raised.
What do you see as a company's options in the face of your warning? I would suspend any new Linux-related activities until this is all sorted out. But first get that opinion of your legal counsel. If they say there is no problem and no issue, then you probably have nothing to worry about. But I doubt there is


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