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SCO Extorting Unixware Licenses to Linux Users? 576

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-i-don't-want-unixware dept.
An anonymous user noted that SCO will sell you Unixware if you want to "Legitimize" your usage of Linux at your company. If you buy the license, you will be held blameless for your transgressions against SCO! Pricing has yet to be determined for the special licenses, but I suspect that for any value greater than zero, there are going to be a fair number of angry users.
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SCO Extorting Unixware Licenses to Linux Users?

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  • Hrm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @10:31AM (#6498974)
    This couldn't have been edited onto the previous SCO story this morning?

    It's getting to be a bit much, especially since attention is what they're after in the first place, Slashdot...
  • by iapetus (24050) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @10:31AM (#6498977) Homepage

    Even if the price is zero, then I'm personally likely to be angry enough as it is. This is all about accepting that SCO is in the right, and until such time as they've taken this through court and proven that to be the case, I have no intention of doing anything to suggest that they have the right to impose restrictions on my use of Linux.

    If they're truly that confident of their position, they should be rushing through the court case, and then asking people to license Unixware, with a suitable judgement behind them to back it up.

    As it is, their case is built mostly on hot air, so I can see their motivation in pushing for payment in advance.

  • by eXtro (258933) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @10:34AM (#6498996) Homepage
    whatever that means. Even if I ran a business and I believed that SCO had a strong enough case to cause me worry I wouldn't buy into this. Say my business runs RedHat, I purchase a license and I'm held blameless. Fine, but RedHat itself isn't, so SCO goes and sues RedHat at a later date.


    A few things can happen. 1) SCO loses, my license purchase was pointless then but I'm only out some money. 2) SCO wins and RedHat pays the licensing fees. My license purchase was pointless again because RedHat's aquisition of a license covers me. Not only that but RedHat will past the cost on to the consumers. 3) SCO wins and RedHat can't afford the licensing fee. RedHat goes out of business and I'm left with an orphaned product.


    Basically unless I roll my own internal variant of linux I don't see any positive benefit to purchasing the license unless they intend to go after each business individually in court.

  • Well.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Squidgee (565373) <squidgeeOO1NO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @10:34AM (#6499009)
    Well, now we know what their plan was. As everyone suspected, it's not to sue.

    This way, they make money without legal fees, and don't need to prove anything. The only thing that can stop this is a countersuit...which I very much hope we see.

  • What if? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by C_Kode (102755) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @10:36AM (#6499025) Journal
    What if SCO loses in court? What happens to all the companies that buy these licenses to license linux via Unixware? Do they demand a refund? Will SCO just claim "Hey you licensed SCO, not Linux" and keep their moneies?

    Secondly, What happens if SCO loses and now since they are *licensing* Linux technologies? I'm sure proper wording can eliminate this all, but several companies could get screwed out of hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars.
  • by nightsweat (604367) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @10:38AM (#6499059)
    3) SCO wins and RedHat can't afford the licensing fee. RedHat goes out of business and I'm left with an orphaned product.

    But that's the beauty of Open Source. You can't be truly orphaned.

  • Exactly. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ins0m (584887) <ins0mni0n AT hackermail DOT com> on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @10:43AM (#6499117)
    Why spend money on a primary injunction? While some predicted that this may have been a ruse to get bought out, others held to the premise that SCO is on a sinking ship and just wants money. Since the controversy started, their stock price has gone from $1.09 to upwards of $12 per share. Coincidence? Nope; controversy sells.

    By spreading FUD and insisting everyone cease and desist without actually seeking an injunction, it seems that the dynamic duo of Sontag and McBride are hoping to make some money without doing any dirty work. However, as was noted before, we have seen the GPL stand up to the legal tests (remember Progress and MySQL fighting over Gemini?). I hope someone eventually nails these guys with a libel suit. They haven't proven anything and they talk about this magical "discovery" phase like the dirty laundry is about to be aired... but it hasn't. As of the time of this post, SCO still has GPL'd Linux up on their FTP: ftp://ftp.caldera.com/pub/scolinux/server/4.0/upda tes/SRPMS/ [caldera.com]. If that's not donation, I don't know what is.

  • by Enry (630) <`enry' `at' `wayga.net'> on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @10:46AM (#6499157) Journal
    Because every time the community thinks they know what SCO is talking about, they change their tune. First it was changes only in IBM's distribution, then it was in Red Hat, then it was in the stock 2.4 kernel, now it's in every kernel since 2.4.

    It's NUMA, it's RCU, it's JFS, it's low-level subroutines, but they won't tell you exactly what it is. How can you change something when you don't know what needs changing?
  • by PenguiN42 (86863) <taylork@alum.mit. e d u> on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @10:48AM (#6499187) Journal
    Let's suppose that SCO's claim is valid and IBM put some code in Linux that shouldn't have been there.

    Why are the end users responsible for licensing SCO's code? They got the product (the linux kernel), under a license from the linux developers, and they're following the license they recieved the product from. If there was a license violation, it's on the developer's head (in this case, IBM).

    Think about it: If closed source software stole code and sold it, could the company that originally owned the code sue all the users of that code for violating their license? This doesn't make sense to me -- they'd sue the offending closed source company, and perhaps have them issue some sort of recall or licensing program for the code, but they wouldn't go oafter individuals who thought they bought the software legitimately...

    How about another example: if a magazine puts some copyrighted content that they're not supposed to use in their magazine, is the copyright owner going to go after every single person who bought the magazine? No! They're going to go after the distributer, who did the illegal *copying* in the first place!

    I really don't understand why companies are giving money to SCO under their legal pressure, when it seems like they have absolutely no legal leg to stand on.

    anyone know the real legal implications here? IANAL, Obviously :P
  • Re:Uhm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigjocker (113512) * on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @10:51AM (#6499221) Homepage
    We have heard some of it, but mostly from user's comments. The article from this morning was focused on code and a way to track some contributions by Caldera employees to the kernel.

    I for one welcome any news regarding this issue. Slashdot is known for it's huge Linux audience and is very handy to have a unified source of information and comments.

    Why bother? A lot of us work on companies that use Linux (myself included), even some of us have helped our employers move from proprietary Unices to Linux (myself included), and in my case I also work as a independent consultant and have helped a lot of clients to make UN*X->Linux and WIN->Linux transitions (I make all the solutions using free software and license them under the GPL to my clients, if they want to redistribute the system or a modified version of it they must release the source, if not they are free to keep it secret) so this SCO issue is affecting (and has a lot of potential to affect really badly) my job and bussiness.

    You never have too much information, and in any case, you can always not click on the link and let it pass. A lot of us even want to see more stories about this issue.
  • Re:Why care? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zeinfeld (263942) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @10:58AM (#6499308) Homepage
    If Linus doesnt fear the SCO trolls, why should I? We're putting linux on our networks for free, and SCO wants a part of it.

    Well Linus is only providing a part of the Linux O/S and one that is least likely to actually infringe. So Linus is perhaps not the best test.

    A better test would be IBM who seems to be completely unphased by the situation and has racks of the best IP lawyers that money can buy.

    SCO faces a big problem trying to make its case. This is not a normal copyright infringement case where the ownership of the copyright is beyond doubt. Proving SCO's case will take many years - if that is actually possible at all. In the process SCO will be forced to specify exactly the portions of the code that are alleged to infringe. It is beyond doubt that by the time any case came to court for a judgement that any infringing components would have been removed.

    That is before any consideration of the GPL. SCO continued to distribute Linux under the GPL long after they acquired the rights to UnixWare. Even if their Linux claim were true they have licensed the relevant code under the GPL.

    This is nothing but the death throes of a dying company that has gambled on one last chance to show a return. They could well keep the stock price high for some time while the management sell out their shares.

  • Re:No need to pay. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mcgroarty (633843) <brian,mcgroarty&gmail,com> on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @11:14AM (#6499474) Homepage
    Hell, read McBride's own words: He said that "Contracts are what you use against parties you have relationships with." [reference [google.com]]

    If that's not the sign of a pure litigation company's emergence, I'm not sure what is!

  • Yes but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sterno (16320) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @11:15AM (#6499491) Homepage
    See the thing is, attorneys cost money. May as well use the licensing to get your money. Also it makes you look confident that you will win which doesn't hurt the stock price.

    My thought, is that if SCO starts going to companies using Linux and threatening them saying they will sue if they don't license their code, the correct response is, "show me the code." If I'm not mistaken they have to proove you KNOWINGLY violated their copyright, and given the legally indeterminate nature of this case right now, that doesn't seem plausible.

    Maybe I should go and claim that my IP is in Linux too. It's not, but as long as nobody else knows that for certain, maybe I can get a few litigously nervous companies to write me nice checks.
  • by Oriumpor (446718) * on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @11:18AM (#6499525) Homepage Journal
    IANAL so, STFU
    In the united states it is illegal to threaten litigation. However, it is not illegal to surruptitiously mention litigation, and then offer an "alternative" (a cash settlement for instance) or ... in this case, a license.
  • by tuffy (10202) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @11:24AM (#6499586) Homepage Journal
    How come no one saw this coming? The mixing of GPL and proprietary code, open source or not is bound to cause problems. Looks as if people like Red Hat and Debian had it right all along in trying to keep all non-GPL or LGPL code out of the main distribution.

    The problem is, SCO isn't telling what code is tainted, or how. If SCO actually wanted Linux users to stop infringing on the use of this hypothetical code, they would tell us what it is so that we could remove it. But that's not what SCO wants; instead, it's in their best interests to spread FUD and extort what money they can from IBM and anyone else who's willing to pay.

    There isn't any proprietary code in the Linux kernel. Anything that goes in it is owned by the copyright holder and released under the GPL. If IBM put violated some license agreement with SCO and put code in the kernel that doesn't belong (highly unlikely indeed), SCO's suit is against IBM for whatever damages that releasing such code is worth.

  • by Troy Baer (1395) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @11:26AM (#6499624) Homepage
    They are still claiming that the Linux kernel (or whatever part of SCO/Linux they are claiming today) contains their code, and that it is being used illegally, however if you give them money then they will ignore your violation. I'm not convinced that this is legal, since it sounds a lot like blackmail to me, but that doesn't seem to stop SCO.

    I'm not sure if it's legal either, but it sure reeks of a protection racket to me. (It's especially galling given that they haven't even established in court that they do in fact own what they claim to.) I've complained to my state attourney general about it. I'd like to think they'll look into it, but my state AG is one of the ones who caved on the MS antitrust settlement...

    --Troy
  • by caseih (160668) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @11:28AM (#6499653)
    SCO's case is currently against IBM. Until this is decided in court, everything that SCO is saying about Linux, Linux users, Redhat, and others is completely moot. This really is extortion.


    A few things can happen. 1) SCO loses, my license purchase was pointless then but I'm only out some money.


    This is exactly the best case scenerio for SCO. The more gullible people like you there are, the more they can profit on the uncertainty. Besides being barely legal (how can SCO license a product that they don't own with a license that violates the original license of the product?), this is unethical and we need to send them a message that we aren't going to stand for it. The licensing agreement itself that they have worked out is illegal. It would be like Ford discovering that GM is somehow violating Ford's IP in some way and then demanding that all GM customers, as well as Chrysler customers, pay Ford a licensing fee to use their vehicles.

    Let's follow IBM's example in this thing and give SCO the response they deserve: nothing.
  • by Azureflare (645778) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @11:38AM (#6499789)
    How in blazing hell will SCO ever figure out who is using linux? Do they have police spy-bots to go around the internet monitoring all the Linux computers connected to the internet? Am I going to come home one day to find a letter from SCO saying I have an illegal copy of linux and I need to buy their UnixWare license?

    If that's the case, I'm moving to europe (or at least canada) where they don't have legal systems where parasite companies can take advantage of people and businesses.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @11:51AM (#6499959)
    >>As for the legal system, there is no wonder it breaks when you have no faith in it.>Faith is required to get something to work, so obviously something more than just the system is broken.>Blaiming the system is childish and naive.

    Why is it so completely impossible that the system *is* responsible? The system in Germany worked, why not the USA? Maybe there are problems in the USA legal system that need to be repaired. Why is this point of view "childish and naive" ??

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @12:06PM (#6500140)
    The receiver of stolen goods is just as much a criminal as he who stole the goods EVEN IF he claims he did not know it was stolen.

    The OSS/GPL scam is now exposed as corrupt and criminal. They presume just by including some stolen code under the scam of a GPL license its all free for the taking.

    Rewrite Linux in the clear without reference to the subject code and all is well. Demand that there is no such thing as Intellectual Property or Copyrights and your goose is cooked well done.

    Pay to SCO all the ill gotten gains since 2000 plus tripple damages and you will be fogiven but not forgotten. Perhaps then you will learn that its OK to give away your own work but not the work of others without their voluntary, active, explicit, and continuing permission.

  • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @12:26PM (#6500417) Homepage Journal
    #include "IANAL.h"


    I believe the "formal" definition is "demands with menaces", where "demands" and "menaces" are roughly the definition you gave, though perhaps with a little more scope.


    (eg: neither the demands nor the menaces have to be actually stated. They can be implied, provided it is reasonable to interpret the implication as an actual threat of some kind, unless the person coughs up.)


    SCO certainly seems to qualify under the "menaces" part. Just because they've not named a sum, or directly stated that Linux users would be prosecuted, is irrelevent. Their action towards IBM, and their association of Linux with illegal activity, may well be sufficient.


    The demands may also be inferred, from their repeated reference to SCO UnixWare licenses and license fees.


    While I think it likely that SCO has enough money to blast any suit a /. reader is likely to bring, the fact nonetheless remains that SCO's practice is skirting the edge of illegality and may well have crossed that line.

  • by mj01nir (153067) * on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @12:27PM (#6500428)
    From SCO's reply to Novell's copyright allegations:
    "Copyrights and patents are protection against strangers. Contracts are what you use against parties you have relationships with. From a legal standpoint, contracts end up being far stronger than anything you could do with copyrights.... SCO intends to protect and enforce all of the contracts that the company has with more than 6,000 licensees."

    So now SCO wants me to have a contract with them, by purchasing a UnixWare license? Why, so they can use it as a more effective weapon against me later? No thanks, Darl.
  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @12:29PM (#6500463) Journal
    <quote>What we need is a kernel contributer with sufficient testicular fortitude (and bankroll) to do the right thing. </quote>

    I disagree. Sometimes, it takes more balls to bide your time and let your opponent keep shoving his size 11's into his mouth, and this looks lik one of those times.

    Please consider:

    1. SCO keeps making all sorts of public statements that are all over the map. They don't realize that, the more they say, the more ammunition they give to their detractors, who are legion (that's you, me, IBM, Novell, etc.)

    2. In contract negociations, he who speaks first looses. By not dragging this into the courts, we're doing 2 things:

      • Showing that we're taking the moral high ground, (so we look better than they do, with their sue-everybody mentality) rather than alienating people who are confused, fed up, or intimidated by legal procedings

      • Giving them every opportunity to reveal the so-called "misappropriated code", which they continue to refuse to do.

      Both of these actions tend to reflect badly on SCO, and make our community look better (when you want to win in the court of public opinion, which is how we're going to increase Linux penetration, you don't want to come off as a bunch of smelly hippy geeks)

    3. The longer this drags on, the more likely that "interesting stuff" will start oozing out of the woodwork. Look what's happened so far:

      • SCO had what they claimed was the offending code reviewed by a non-programmer, which ended up raising more questions than it answered.

      • There's now a claim extent that SCO violated IP rights (stole code) when they developed their Linux compatability code

      • As of yesterday, they were still distributing GPL'ed Linux on their FTP servers. Think about it ... they said that they were unaware that Linux was (allegedly) in violation of their IP rights, and that they would stop distributing it ... WTF, anybody?

    The pros (IBM, etc.) are keeping their mouths shut, because that's the professional approach. They've adopted the Kennedy approach:
    1. Never complain
    2. Never explain
    3. Get even
    I'm not saying that we shouldn't be raising a stink here; I'm just saying that, since this will take years to resolve through the courts, let's concentrate instead on winning the minds and hearts of the people who make technology-related decisions (purchasing agents, CTOs, etc). Then, when SCO [ goes bell up || is investigated for investor fraud || has to recant || looses in court ] we'll be able to laugh. Don't forget, this may never get to the point where a judge has to make a decision.
  • by eric76 (679787) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @12:31PM (#6500486)

    You are quite correct.

    The possession of a work that infringes on a copyright does not appear to be a violation of the copyright laws at all.

    So, even in the unlikely chance that SCO was able to demonstrate a violation of their copyrights, their actions might be against distributors, and they would have no right of action against the rest of us.

    If there was merit to their claims, then there would be some small possibility that downloading the distribution instead of buying it at the store might count as making a copy and would then be an infringement. And so would making multiple copies of the distribution. But since there is nothing I can find in Title 17 about limiting software to a single computer, I bet you could still install Linux on a large number of machines from a single distribution set and not infringe.

    As Eben Moglen (a law professor at Columbia University and general counsel to FSF) is quoted as saying:

    Users don't need a license to use copyrighted programs anymore than they need to pay a copyright fee before reading Gone with the Wind. If you copy, distribute, or modify copyrighted material, then you can be in copyright violation,


    But even if SCO did prevail on copyright issues, they might still not be able to go after users who make copies, distribute, or modify the material since for all practical purposes, it appears that we have the authority to do so.

    I think SCO is going to have to show serious evidence that there is a copyright violation to remove that apparent authority.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @12:33PM (#6500520)
    He also made it clear in an earlier interview that the issues were only on the periphery of the Linux kernel. SCO simply can't keep their story straight long enough for anybody to actually verify it.
  • I wonder.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JaJ_D (652372) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @01:06PM (#6501008)
    ...what would happen if we tried "attacking" SCO the best way we know how - ignore them!

    Treat them the same way you'd treat an abnoxious, rude kid that is throwing a tantrum - walk away. When the kid sees there isn't an audiance they normally stop.

    All that this sort of reporting does is create more FUD - and /. is falling into the trap of making a point of the amount of smoke the SCO is generating - and (accepting the golden rule about managers being sheep and not thinking for themselves) managers believe that where there's smoke....

    All /.'ers and the press are doing is pumping this information up and ramping up the share price of a company that was very near to having death throws not so long back.

    Until the Judge that hears the prelim falls about laughing before chucking the case out, there is nothing we (linux community, /.'ers, the general populas) can do.

    So sit back, relax and when people go "What about SCO' case" go "BAH", wave them away with the words "shoo shoo" and then go back to making a difference.

    And remember, you can't spell Scoundrels with out the letters s c o

    Jaj
  • by richg74 (650636) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @01:12PM (#6501100) Homepage
    I'm not sure if it's legal either, but it sure reeks of a protection racket to me. (It's especially galling given that they haven't even established in court that they do in fact own what they claim to.)

    There is an article at newsfactor.com [newsfactor.com] about yesterday's teleconference. I think the following sentence, which is a direct quote from the article, is just lovely:

    Since the controversy arose, SCO has been contacted by about 40 to 50 companies asking what SCO wants from them, DiDio said. She compared the proposed licenses to an insurance policy for businesses running Linux that want protection should the courts rule in SCO's favor.
    (DiDio is Laura Didio, a senior analyst at the Yankee Group, who doesn't seem to have taken any clue deliveries recently.)

    An "insurance policy" for users who "want protection". Vinny the Enforcer couldn't have put it better.

  • by dinog (582015) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @03:51PM (#6503139)

    You don't mention the worst case scenario :

    4) You've signed a contract with SCO, and your competitors did not. SCO loses in court and no one else has to license anything from SCO, but the contract/license you signed with SCO leaves you at a disadvantage because the contract/license is not the same as the court case and you are either
    a) stuck with paying a useless license fee (it seems they were looking for perpetual terms IIRC)
    or
    b) you have to sue SCO to get out of the contract. Of course even if SCO has lost against IBM, you still may lose this case.

    Even worse, if the contract is anything like their other contracts, all of your related works may be encumbered by the contract you sign with SCO. Some people give their rights away or waive them. Only the amazingly gullible pay someone to take their rights away.

    Sucker !

    Dean G.

  • How can it be a failure if it's a job that no one thought they'd need to do? Why should you politicize if you're a Linux hacker? You're more interested in making things work. Hell, even Linus has been thrust unwillingly into the limelight, and he's the one who started Linux. It's the system's job to protect EVERYONE, not just the large corporations who can buy publicity and scare tactics. At least I think that's the kind of principle that this country was founded on. I agree that life will be a living hell, but not because of our failure, but a failure of the system and the corporations to have some common sense and decency.
  • by protektor (63514) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @07:30PM (#6506201)
    I have a problem with what SCO is doing. I have bought and downloaded and used Caldera Linux in the past and recently from Caldera/SCO. So my question is do their customers need a license? If they don't and the product is GPLed then why does anyone need a license at all. If the product isn't GPL then I should be able to sue for "bait and switch" as well as misrepresentation of the product. I bought it, and it was suppose to be a GPLed Linux distribution. Also I should be able to sue for false advertisement since SCO/Caldera advertised a product that was suppose to be a GPLed Linux product with a few extra commercial programs and commercial support.

    SCO can't say that everyone using Linux needs a license but their customers, because their customers are covered under their purchase and the GPL. If so then I can give my stuff away for free and SCO can't do anything about it. If not then I should sue SCO for lying to me both in the sale of the product and in the advertising of the product.

    SCO can't have it both ways. They can't have their cake and eat it too. Either it was covered under the GPL and thus everyone should ignore SCO, or they are facing major lawsuits from all of their customers for misrepresentation of the product and out and out lying about the product.

    Which is it?

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