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SCO Official Defends Linux Attack

By Patrick Thibodeau
June 2, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The SCO Group claims that beginning next week, it will show analysts where the Unix code it owns has been illegally copied into the Linux kernel. In an interview with Computerworld's Patrick Thibodeau, Chris Sontag, senior vice president and general manager of SCOsource, the division of SCO Group that's in charge of protecting the company's intellectual property, discussed SCO'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 -- the source code being contributed by various people.

Your recent letter to 1,500 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.

Chris Sontag of The SCO Group Inc.
Chris Sontag of The SCO Group Inc.
Should companies remove Linux from their systems? We're not making any specific recommendations at this time.

Are you considering suing Linux users that you notified? Anything is always a possibility. If you are going to enforce your contracts, claims and intellectual property, you have to be able to go to ultimately the endpoint of infringement.

How many lines of code in the Linux kernel are a direct copyright violation? It's very extensive. It is many different sections of code ranging from five to 10 to 15 lines of code in multiple places that are of issue, up to large blocks of code that have been inappropriately copied into Linux in violation of our source-code licensing contract. That's in the kernel itself, so it is significant. It is not a line or two here or there. It was quite a surprise for us.

Why did Microsoft decide to get a license from you? Completely unrelated. Microsoft has been adding more and more Unix compatibility and Unix interoperability into their products. We got in contact with them early this year to let them know that we had concerns about if they had all the appropriate intellectual property necessary to be providing that Unix capability.
We ended up in negotiations where they have licensed some of our Unix Systems V intellectual property from us for use in their Services for Unix products. ... They recognized that it was important to have appropriate intellectual property licenses for the property they are using.

Have you made a similar licensing offer to the 1,500 companies that received your letter? We have no specific program or solution for solving this Linux intellectual property problem right now.

Read more about Linux and Unix in Computerworld's Linux and Unix Topic Center.

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