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A good question: What does the SCO Unix code reveal?

Opinions vary on what the sneak peek really reveals

By Todd R. Weiss
June 12, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - As it promised to do two weeks ago, The SCO Group Inc. has revealed to several industry analysts some of the Linux source code that it claims was illegally copied from Unix.
But opinions vary on what the revelations may mean and how they may fit in with the $1 billion lawsuit that Lindon, Utah-based SCO filed against IBM in March (see story). That suit alleges that IBM misappropriated SCO Unix trade secrets by putting some of the code into Linux.
Laura DiDio, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, said she was shown two or three samples of the allegedly copied Linux code, and it appeared to her that the sections were a "copy and paste" match of the SCO Unix code that she was shown in comparison.
DiDio and the other analysts were able to view the code only under a nondisclosure agreement, so she couldn't divulge intricate details of what she was shown. "The courts are going to ultimately have to prove this, but based on what I'm seeing ... I think there is a basis that SCO has a credible case," DiDio said. "This is not a nuisance case."
George Weiss, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., last week said he had reviewed several supporting documents from SCO and saw them as potentially bolstering the company's claims. The documents allegedly show the contracts that gave SCO the rights to Unix that "to me look very legitimate," he said. Weiss refused to sign a nondisclosure agreement, so he wasn't permitted to view any of the contested code, but the documents he saw at least gave credence to SCO's claims, he said.
Bill Claybrook, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston, said he viewed some of SCO's disputed code and saw that SCO could potentially have a claim. But he said his opinion, based on a brief look at some of the code, is far different than a judge or jury reaching a verdict in the IBM case. "I have no idea" if there's a problem with the code, Claybrook added.
"From what I've seen, I think people should be taking the SCO accusations seriously, but I don't know if they have any proof," he said.
Claybrook said that though he was shown code that matched between Unix and Linux, he wasn't able to determine where the code had originated or how it might have gotten there.
One thing that "bothered" him, he said, is that he asked SCO officials if they had any "direct evidence" that IBM copied any System V code into Linux and was first told there was no such evidence. Hours later, he said, SCO officials called him back and told him that they had "misspoken" and that they did have such evidence.
"That's kind of strange," Claybrook said.
Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said he turned down SCO's offer to look at the code because it wouldn't have provided any fair conclusions or answered any questions about the case. Even if the code is the same between Linux and Unix, he said, there would be no way to know whether it was put there legally or who put it there. "How do they know it was IBM?" he asked.
The center of SCO's legal fight is its position that it owns the Unix operating system, along with all the contracts, claims and copyrights associated with Unix. The company also alleges that portions of its System V code are found in Linux, as well as portions of resulting derivative code.
Last month, SCO warned all commercial Linux users that they could be using its code illegally and recommended that commercial users should seek legal advice to help them decide what to do about their use of Linux (see story).
Two weeks ago, Novell Inc. called for SCO to put up or shut up over its allegations (see story). In a letter on its Web site from Novell CEO and President Jack Messman, the company lashed out by challenging SCO's assertion that it owns the copyrights and patents to Unix System V.
Novell, which had previously acquired the Unix systems business of AT&T Corp., broke up and sold its Unix properties in 1994 and 1995. One of those deals was with the former Santa Cruz Operation, which was bought by Caldera International Inc. and later became The SCO Group.




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