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SCO Has "Made No Decision" On Linux IP Claims 493

Earlier today, a Slashdot post reported the possibility that SCO would attempt to collect royalty payments for intellectual property that SCO (according to that story) claims would make other Linux vendors liable to the tune of nearly $100 per Linux-running CPU. This report on NewsForge reports that SCO has issued a statement "disputing the claims in the story, but confirming that it does have significant asset claims in Unix IP and it is discussing 'possible strategies.'" Awfully ambiguous on SCO's part; I'd feel better about a straight denial.
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SCO Has "Made No Decision" On Linux IP Claims

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  • by Gortbusters.org ( 637314 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @02:55PM (#5074251) Homepage Journal
    fuzzy thinking to make you want to scream for some real answers.

    The reality of the situation is that SCO could never collect 100 dollars against every PC running Linux. At best, they would hurt RedHat, destroy what's left of Mandrake's bank account, and have a luminous cloud over every little distribution out there.

    Are they going to use the linux counter [li.org] or something?
    • by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <ChristianHGrossNO@SPAMyahoo.ca> on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:25PM (#5074541)
      They could hurt Redhat, yes because Redhat is an American company. But I thought Mandrake was a French company? And I doubt that they patented using European patents. Likewise with Suse.

      Do you know what is happening here? The US is starting to feed on itself. And people outside the US are starting to profit....

      For example copyrights on specific music pieces in Europe expire and as such they are free to copy, but not in the US.

      Interesting the Land of Free is turning into the land of the regulated lawyer! Actually sad!
      • "For example copyrights on specific music pieces in Europe expire and as such they are free to copy, but not in the US."

        Point of order, here... yes, they *do* expire in the US. Trademarks don't (as long as you defend them), but the protections there are quite different, and music is not usually a trademark.

        US copyrights may last significantly longer than European ones, but here's the current breakdown (from a flyer I picked up the other day in the public library). It gets pretty messy, because the laws have been changed so many times, but here goes:

        Works created 1/1/1978 or after: Protection starts when work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression, expires after life of the creator + 70 years (or, if work is of corporate authorship, 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter).

        Published before 1923: in public domain.

        Published between 1923 and 1963: Protection starts when published with notice, expires after 28 years + optional 47-year renewal, which was later extended to 67 years. If not renewed, it's now in public domain.

        Published from 1964-1977: Protection starts when published with notice, expires after 28 years + automatic 67-year extension.

        Chreated before 1/1/1978 but not published: Protection starts 1/1/1978, expires after life of creator + 70 years or 12/31/2002, whichever is greater.

        Created before 1/1/1978 but published between then and 12/31/2002: Protection starts 1/1/1978, expires after life of creator + 70 years or 12/31/2047, whichever is greater.

        So it can be difficult to tell when things expire, but they do expire. ;-)

        Not that this has anything whatsoever to do with patents, which is what the article was about...
  • SCO (Score:4, Funny)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday January 13, 2003 @02:56PM (#5074258) Homepage Journal

    1. Buy "Unix" name
    2. Lose millions
    3. Scramble for cash
    4. Come up with hair-brained idea as a 'Hail Mary'
    5. ???
    6. Bankruptcy!
    • Re:SCO (Score:2, Funny)

      by dextr0us ( 565556 )
      wow, an accurate buisness plan on slashdot! Amazing.

      PS #5 could be hiring lawyers to defend charging $100 per linux pc.
    • Re:SCO (Score:5, Informative)

      by bongoras ( 632709 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:04PM (#5074351) Homepage
      For the benefit of those who are to lazy to read the (fine) story... SCO statement on Client Server News story On January 10, 2003 Client Server News published a story concerning SCO and its UNIX intellectual property. This article states as fact speculations about what SCO may do or not do with regard to its ownership of core UNIX IP. Darl McBride, president and CEO of SCO, has discussed SCO's UNIX IP ownership in many public venues and on the most recent quarterly investors' conference call. SCO has significant UNIX intellectual property dating back to the company's purchase of AT&T's Bell Labs UNIX technology. Our UNIX IP is a significant asset and for several months we have been holding internal discussions, exploring a wide range of possible strategies concerning this asset. We've reached no final decisions on any course of action. SCO is a Linux vendor and a leading member of United Linux. Contrary to the claims in the Client Server News article, SCO has no desire to take legal action against fellow Linux vendors. As a normal part of business, SCO has had discussions with several legal experts in the field of intellectual property law, and these discussions included David Boies. Contrary to the claims in the Client Server News story, SCO has not engaged Mr. Boies to take legal action against our fellow Linux vendors. It's unfortunate when a publication runs a headline, stating as fact in the present tense that our company is engaging in certain activities when, in fact, we've made no decisions, formed no programs and announced nothing about this.
      • by grub ( 11606 )

        Our UNIX IP is a significant asset and for several months we have been holding internal discussions, exploring a wide range of possible strategies concerning this asset

        Rather than "exploiting" anything, why not just work on improving their product and giving some actual Value Added improvements to customers of their system?
        • Re:SCO (Score:3, Informative)

          by Jason Earl ( 1894 )

          SCO has two proprietary UNIX OSes (UnixWare, and OpenServer) and a Linux distribution, and they have essentially no inhouse development staff. In short, they haven't a prayer of actually competing.

          Which is why they are considering this sort of a suicide tactic. They have nothing to lose.

      • Re:SCO (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Error27 ( 100234 ) <error27@gmail.cRABBITom minus herbivore> on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:53PM (#5075288) Homepage Journal
        This morning I saw the article hoverred my mouse over the URL just to make sure it wasn't a LinuxGram article.

        Now that I have time to read it, I can see that it is a LinuxGram article after all and by Maureen O'Gara no less.

        I'm not sure if there are any salt grains large enough for the articles she writes.

    • Re:SCO (Score:3, Insightful)

      by scoove ( 71173 )
      1. Buy "Unix" name
      1.1. Scribble out all references to BSD and the Univ. California's intellectual property role in the development of UNIX. Toss out any history on UNIX litigation, including Net2 code issue and round after round of court decisions.

      5. ???
      Actually, it's:
      5. Develop pump and dump scheme to boost SCO stock for a few days while the execs dump and get out.

      Then...
      6. Bankruptcy!

      Bingo. It's funny how history repeats. It wasn't too long ago that BSD/386 faced a similar threat from the current UNIX TM licensee.

      "If you can't compete, litigate."

      *scoove*
  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @02:56PM (#5074263) Journal
    Coming soon to a warez group near you: Linux!
    • Actually!

      If you go to the "DirectDownload sites" you will see that "linux X.X" is allready downloadable =)

      Not that i have ever visited any of those =) but i bet there's hundreds of websites boasting about latest greatest "LINUX 8.0 ISO DOWNLOAD HERE" allready.

  • by gpinzone ( 531794 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @02:58PM (#5074277) Homepage Journal
    ...right behind Unisys. I think they're still waiting for their first royalty check from Slashdot. [Insert make believe deity here]-forbid they should use PNG instead.
  • by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @02:58PM (#5074284) Homepage
    What intellectual property does SCO claim to own? Are these patents, or copyrights, and over what code or protocols?

    I think the core Linux was based on is past-due, patent-wise, so any claim on that would be prior art; and the fact that Linus coded the basic kernel from the ground up would eliminate copyright concerns, so what's left? Auxiliary functionality?

    Someone was mentioning System V; is it SysV binary code compatibility that SCO is laying claim over? I think that could be eliminated from the kernel without major disruptions; some people would get really peeved about the inability to run proprietary software they couldn't recompile, but...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:11PM (#5074420)
      There are patents on all kinds of wacky things like the setuid bit. SCO has a collection of these that are automatically licensed when someone starts with the original UNIX source base but could be used in a lawsuit if someone tried to make something "UNIX like" without licensing UNIX. So it's basic UNIX concepts that are the sticking point here since Linux is "UNIX like" but not a UNIX and not based on any older UNIX code like *BSD.
    • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:16PM (#5074464)
      What intellectual property does SCO claim to own? Are these patents, or copyrights, and over what code or protocols?

      It almost certainly is not copyrights. Linux was written from scratch by Linus Torvalds and released under the GNU GPL. Any and all code submitted to the kernel is likewise GPLed, so if SCO submitted code, they did so under the terms of the GPL. This is where the GPL really shines ... it innoculates against entities such as SCO submarining code into the OS and then making copyright claims down the road.

      Of course, if someone violated SCO's copyright and got it accepted into the kernel without divulging its origins (or claiming to have written it themselves), then SCO would probably have a copyright claim against the purported author, not those (the linux kernel folks, distros, and users) to whome that hypothetical black hat illegally licensed the code. And if said person were actually in the employ of SCO, then sco would have essentially granted a licenses and would be bitchslapped by the courts. None of those latter scenerios are even remotely likely, so, as I said, it is almost certainly not a copyright claim SCO's vague comments are asserting.

      What they own are almost certainly software patents, likely patents written from looking at the source code written and developed by others, and granted rubber-stamp style from the notoriously irresponsible US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As others have said, such are the equivelent of 'nuclear weapons' for IT, and if SCO were to do such a foolish thing (as a consiquence of their own stupidity, or shilling for Microsoft), the end result will be no GNU/Linux in the United States (the only country stupid enough to recognize such patents), and a United States with an IT industry that would be irrelevant not within the generous twenty years Alan Cox suggests, but within a scant 5 years at best.

      In short, America would become the technological backwater its behavior and policies have so richly earned it. We in the States who care (a vanishingly small minority) would be unhappy with this ... and, of course, powerless to do anything about it beneath a government that no longer even feels the need to feign democracy, much less practice it. However, the rest of the world will continue on quite happilly without us, probably breathing a sigh of relief that such an out of control, unilateral superpower has managed to shoot itself so severely in the foot.

      In any event, if the rest of the world ever wants to throw off the yoke of the American Hegemony, the best and most effective first step they could take would be to reject our copyright and patent schemes outright ... why should one country, one corporation, or one human being own knowledge and wisdom, regardless of whether they thought of it first (and most likely had their employer claim ownership of their thought), or, as is just as often the case, merely won the footrace to the patent office or cribbed the work of others.

      The best thing the developing world could do for itself is tell America and western Europe to fuck off and none-too-gently place their IP regimes, patents and copyrights in particular, into a location where the sun never shines. If free software is destroyed by these knowledge-squatters, it will not be the first such promising work of humanity so destroyed, nor the last. Until people wake up and put these Robber Barons in their place (preferably behind bars), atrocities such as this potential fiasco will occur again and again, with human progress and public interests being trampled, again and again, by the attourney equivelent of a spoiled child's shreak "No, I thought of it first, you can't use it!"
      • It almost certainly is not copyrights. Linux was written from scratch by Linus Torvalds and released under the GNU GPL. Any and all code submitted to the kernel is likewise GPLed, so if SCO submitted code, they did so under the terms of the GPL. This is where the GPL really shines ... it innoculates against entities such as SCO submarining code into the OS and then making copyright claims down the road.

        Sorry to inform you, but if any developer writes code that violates SCOs patents it doesn't matter if it is GPLd or not. The patent encumbrance clause of the GPL states that if there is a patent dispute than distribution is forbidden.

        This doesn't matter who wrote the code, or who put it in. Welcome to Patent Law 101: If you violate a patent, the patent holder can selectively enforce it.

        In any event, if the rest of the world ever wants to throw off the yoke of the American Hegemony,
        Ooook, it's time to go back on the meds and take off the tinfoil hat. There is no American Hegemony. In case you have failed to notice, a lot of Chinese are making a fortune on the internet. They don't care about the US. The US (and Americans) like to think they are much more important and far reaching than they are.

        The best thing the developing world could do for itself is tell America and western Europe to fuck off and none-too-gently place their IP regimes, patents and copyrights in particular, into a location where the sun never shines. If free software is destroyed by these knowledge-squatters, it will not be the first such promising work of humanity so destroyed, nor the last.

        Sorry, you last all bits of sanity when you were writing this one out. First off, SCO is not a "knowledge squatter" -- they hold patents. Big deal, so does IBM. IBM strongly suggested SCO shouldn't do this, and my guess is that if SCO tries it IBM will fuck SCO. It's called checks and balances, and most markets have it. If there were no patents in place, than innovation would be halted. The bigger companies in existence would bully the small inventors and entrepeneurs out of the market and then who would keep the information open? No one. Patents are a good thing because not only do they expire, but they also force disclosure and public knowledge.

        So.. again, relax man. The world isn't as bad as you see it. Patents are a good thing, when they aren't abused or issued improperly.
        • by warmcat ( 3545 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:48PM (#5074731)
          Wow, you really didn't understand what the parent was getting at.

          ''If there were no patents in place, than innovation would be halted''

          Without copyright, people would still write music and songs. And without patents, for other market-led reasons, people will still create and improve designs. Can you imagine that?

          ''The bigger companies in existence would bully the small inventors and entrepeneurs out of the market and then who would keep the information open?''

          This wins the ass-backward award for today. Did you read the story about what SCO are trying to do WITH patents? Don't you think that creating a $100+ Linux tax because they filed some obvious software tricks first is 'bullying smaller inventors' and keeping them 'out of the market' WITH patents?

          Please have a good old cogitate on the points in the original post, it deserves +5 insightful, you should re-examine your thoughts on the matter.
        • > my guess is that if SCO tries it IBM will fuck SCO.
          > It's called checks and balances

          Heh, the incidental convenience of having newly-Linux-converted 800-pound gorilla IBM around is a designed-in feature of the market. Hail to the providence of the forefathers of the free markets.
        • Patents are a good thing, when they aren't abused or issued improperly.

          I've seen this asserted many times, but never heard any evidence. Why do you think patents are a good thing?

          Certainly there's a theoretical argument that patents encourage research, but research happened without patents as well. And even if you can show that patents do lead to more research, you have to show that this gain outweighs the cost of patents to society - we know that there are economic costs to monopolies. Are the theoretical benefits of patents so great that they outweigh the demonstrated costs of monopolies?

          Then, even if you can show that patents are a good thing in some areas, you need to show that they're generally good, not only for mechanical engineering, but also for chemistry, biology, medicine, computer software, and any other field to which you wish to apply them.

          Truth is, I've never heard any such arguement made. People who favour patents always act as if it's obvious that they must be a good thing.

          • Certainly there's a theoretical argument that patents encourage research

            They don't do much for research, but they do quite a bit for invention. If you take biotechnology, most of the basic research is done in academia. However, for the benefits of this research to reach consumers, someone has to go through the trouble of commercializing the results. Academics are paid simply to produce results, but companies need financial security. Thus, exclusivity on a product is given to promote bringing it to market in the first place. For the most part, this works well (at least in theory).

            The problem now is that patents aren't just being applied to actual inventions. Companies (and universities!) now expect to get patents for simple old research results regardless of whether there's actually a commercially viable product in there. In the old days (~1985), Leroy Hood and his coworkers- all academics- invented the DNA sequencer, among other things. This was considered very risky research to be doing at a university back then. They immediately patented it, and Applied Biosystems has been selling them like crazy ever since. It's exactly how the system should work. Now, however, professors isolate some gene and immediately patent it. There's no beneficial product involved; they simply control all future research done with it. Hence Myriad Genetics and its BRCA1 patent. I imagine quite a few biotechs will never actually produce anything useful but will leech off others purely by litigation of their bullshit patents. That's legal, but it's not how the system is *supposed* to work.

            (A former coworker is now working on a project that's of direct interest to us- we're both academic researchers. For reasons I can't begin to comprehend, his university is patenting the method, which is simply an algorithm. He's been a real asshole about this, and our response has pretty much been to ignore him. We're not going to reward that sort of crap, and frankly we think we can do a better job. FUCK his patent.)
      • The issue of whether interfaces are copyrightable has never been resolved legally. SCO might well claim copyright infringement by library header files and Linux kernel interfaces, and they might be able to make that stick.
      • +10 Insightful.

        Slashdot should have a library of the best posts ever...and this one should be on it.
    • This is about (alleged) patent violations, not copyright. Copyright covers (for example) a specific implementation of an algorithm; patents cover the algorithm itself.

      Consider the (now-expired) RSA patent. Before the patent expired, you could legally write your own code which implemented RSA encryption. You would hold copyright to your implementation, but since the algorithm was patented you technically had to pay the patentholder royalties for each copy sold.

      SCO is claiming that they have patents which cover core algorithms that are used in Linux. It doesn't matter if Linus knew about them or not, or even if he independently re-discovered those techniques, the patents (assuming they are otherwise valid) still hold and royalties are owed.

      • Yes, I'm aware of the difference between patents and copyrights. If SCO had copyrighted certain formats, such as for some types of Unix binaries, then that might've been the source of the claims. I didn't know, so I asked.

        As for patents, you say "SCO is claiming that they have patents which cover core algorithms that are used in Linux." I don't understand how, if Unix was written back in the mid 1970's, any of its functionality could still be legitimately patented; and since Linux is just another Unix implementation, how it could be violating those IP rights.
  • Bad business (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mnmn ( 145599 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @02:58PM (#5074285) Homepage
    This is to be expected from a LOSING company. People not buying the product, suing rivals, its a common and dirty business tactic. Since they're not revealing details, this shows they dont have much as a case.

    What they dont realize is that Linux works as a community too, and these tactics backfire badly with the Linux community. How many Linux sysadmin will buy the next SCO Linux distro now that they're acting like Microsoft?
  • Stupid (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2003 @02:59PM (#5074287)
    "We can commit suicide, but we're not sure if we will."
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Float a rumor like this and see what the reaction is. If the backlash is bad enough, they can still maintain plausable deniablity about ever intending to charge Linux users. OTOH, if they find that they might have a chance of making it stick, why not?
    • Are you certain? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Sheetrock ( 152993 )
      I'm not claiming to fully understand the field of public relations or run a Fortune 500 company, but I'd sooner plunge my arm into a tank of starving pirahana than even seriously hint at a company policy of imposing charges on Linux users en masse to use what has up until now been a free operating system. Unless trolling is part of the master scheme to increase profits, anyway.
  • Cost of IP? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RoyBoy ( 20792 )
    Of course, an interesting thing to do (if I were a SCO shareholder) would be to audit their books to see how much money they threw after the Unix IP portfolio? They must have acquired it for some purpose liek this, and it is the last desperate attempt by a dying company to try to shake down anyone it can for every last dollar. Shame to see it happen to a player like SCO, but I guess someone at Microsoft is having as laugh riot today!
  • by Jimithing DMB ( 29796 ) <dfe@nosPAM.tgwbd.org> on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:00PM (#5074311) Homepage

    Big deal, they have patents that cover various pieces of UNIX. I think we already all know that.

    As was mentioned in a comment in the previous story, IBM also has patents on just about everything related to computing. They don't use them against anyone because it doesn't make business sense to do so.

    In fact, I think that ties in well with the Lawrence Lessig article the other day. The article questioned paying lawyers to agressively defend IP. Lawyers don't get paid except by customers.

    What's happening now is there are so many lawyers that the supply is saturated. To make up for this the lawyers have artificially increased demand for their service. Eventually enough business people will get a clue that they're bleeding cash on lawyers and losing even more as a direct result of lawyers actions (e.g. suing mp3.com probably did more to hurt the entertainment industry than help it). Once the corporate officers figure that out you'll see fewer lawsuits and fewer lawyers.

    • Once the corporate officers figure that out you'll see fewer lawsuits and fewer lawyers.

      Interesting hypothesis, but it seems that as long as the threat of "mutually assured litigation" holds, the presence of lawyers will hold. How do disparate corporations "disattorney" themselves successfully? How do corporations break the sue, be-sued, or enter cross-license agreement status quo?

      • Once the corporate officers figure that out you'll see fewer lawsuits and fewer lawyers.
        Interesting hypothesis, but it seems that as long as the threat of "mutually assured litigation" holds, the presence of lawyers will hold. How do disparate corporations "disattorney" themselves successfully? How do corporations break the sue, be-sued, or enter cross-license agreement status quo?

        Simple, if it's clearly going to be more damaging to your business to sue, DON'T SUE. If you're too stupid to figure out that it's damaging to your business, then you deserve what you get (a damaged business) and hopefully you'll eventually go under.

        Remember, hardly anyone actually starts by suing someone else. Usually it starts with the threat of litigation. If you are the one being threatened, then hopefully you have enough IP yourself to either enter a cross-license agreement, or if the amount of IP is clearly in your favor, you turn around and tell them to drop it or else. Again, there is no reason to enter into a formal settlement, just drop it entirely. If they still want to fight it, then slap 'em across the head with a clue-by-four and be done with it.

        Of course if you hold the weak position and are sued it can be very hard to defend. Normally there is not enough money in going after smaller companies or individuals for it to be worh it. So if, for example, SCO gets the bright idea to start charging for patent licenses it will more than likely not sue joe users, but instead will go after the large distributions, and may pull a Unisys and go after companies using free software containing the patented algorithms.

        Really the only bad position to be in is to have deep pockets and a weak case.

        In this case there is another very important factor as well. The GPL explicitly forbids redistribution to parties who would have to pay for a patent license. If SCO were to do this, they'd be unable to distribute Linux themselves without violating the GPL!

        There's a little more I need to add here though. If SCO goes under then someone will buy their IP rights or perhaps SCO themselves will try to use them in a last ditch effort to get some cash. Personally, I have a big problem with intellectual property being treated as property for this very reason. IMO IP should be non-transferrable. That is, if the company who originally created the IP goes under, then it becomes part of the public domain. Of course then all you'll probably see is someone come in and give the shareholders enough money so he can keep the company alive and gain its IP.

        And let's not forget that treating IP as an asset leads to numerous problems, one notable being dirty accounting tactics used by Enron and Microsoft.

        IP is a strange beast, there's no easy solution. I think it should be obvious that treating it as a tangible good just isn't working out. However, I also don't think that information wants to be free. When I write a program for my employer I reasonably expect that my employer owns it. If I wrote it for myself I reasonably expect that I own it.

        What we really need is less law and more common sense. Sigh.

    • What's happening now is there are so many lawyers that the supply is saturated. To make up for this the lawyers have artificially increased demand for their service.

      Hey -- lawyers are worse than those Elders of Zion, huh?

      Eventually enough business people will get a clue that they're bleeding cash on lawyers and losing even more as a direct result of lawyers actions (e.g. suing mp3.com probably did more to hurt the entertainment industry than help it).

      Except that SCO has such a crappy business that it is going to wager what is left of it on the lawsuit gambit.

      Once the corporate officers figure that out you'll see fewer lawsuits and fewer lawyers.

      And of course, those corporate suits are just naive little children taken in by the fast-talking shysters. Give me a fricking break.

      Nobody from a law firm went and beat down SCO's door to say "Hey! I have a great idea to save your loser company by suing on software patents!"

      I think SCO did an inventory of its intellectual property, looked at its business record (terrible), and decided that they wanted to try to monetize their intellectual property. Clearly, such a decision probably involved legal counsel.

      Blaming this all on lawyers misses the point, however. If the law itself wasn't so assinine, it wouldn't matter what the lawyers would do.

      The problem is that the software industry (Apple and Microsoft included) may be about to be hoist by their own software patent petard. Them's thats been pushing for increased legislative "protection" of software IP have really set themselves up to get smoked by a business "have not" that has nothing to lose by using a software patent against the rich "haves".

      Quit bitching about the symptom (lawyers who are doing their jobs ethically representing clients) and focus on the real problem (software patents).

      Yes, I am a lawyer. No, I never once went and knocked on someone else's door or direct marketed in any way. I live on reputation and a listing (name and phone number) in the Yellow Pages. Don't smear an entire profession because you're too lazy or ignorant to look for a root cause.

      Goatse for you.

  • by Arcaeris ( 311424 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:01PM (#5074312)
    We used to have news for nerds. Then we had dupes (often in the same day!) of stories of news for nerds. Now we have stories about other stories about news for nerds... all in the same day.

    The most surprising part is that the editors knew the story was on the front page. Score one for them on that one.

    Nowadays Slashdot might as well become a livejournal:

    9:01 AM: SCO sucks.
    Mood: angry

    9:32 AM: Grandma boots linux for first time.
    Mood: ecstatic

    9:30 AM: SCO found out what we said and now hates us!
    Mood: worried

    9:36 AM: Linux rules.
    Mood: confident

    10:05 AM: SCO is suing us! Those punks! They think they own Linux!
    Mood: angry

    10:07 AM: RIAA/MPAA/M$ SUCKS!
    Mood: bouncy

    And on and on...

    (Not meant to be a troll...)
  • by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:03PM (#5074341)
    Translation: Our PR department hasn't figured out what spin to use on this story yet.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Slashdot: the fall of a great kingdom

    Slashdot was once one of the most well known names in the online world of geek news. From this its reuptation grew for its validity of news stories, its direct and honest comments and respondants leading the article on farther and farther out of the sheer desire of curiosity (or bordem). Today, however, you merely have to browse the postings of slashdot to see how it has slowly gone from a kingdom to a childs playhouse.
    Misinformed articles, entire 'friends' groups directing their mod points towards one target to downslam one wrong comment. The whining and complaining about the system and how it works. Slowly, as you can tell, friends and foes lists are building up with lightning speed. And thus... more and more does the ever wise slashdot slowly start to turn more and more into a newbie hax0R IRC channel that has 25 OPS that are all ideling. Where did the glory and maturity go in its users? This is one slashdot fan that is dissapointed.
  • by Ender Ryan ( 79406 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:05PM (#5074368) Journal
    It hardly matters. If SCO tries to extort money from people using Linux, the SCO will lose it's run to distribute Linux in any form whatsoever. The GPL forbids distributing anything under the GPL license that is patented and the patent isn't freely usable.

    If SCO tries anything, Torvalds, Stallman, et al will have cause to sue SCO and force them to drop their patent claims.

    Still, SCO could stop distributing Linux, and demand others do so as well... There's nothing the GPL can do about that. This would simply force another vendor to buy their patent, such as RH or IBM, etc.

    OTOH, these claims are still completely unsubstantiated.

    This type of crap is just another reason software patents should be not allowed... Ridiculous.

    • However, since they have already distributed Linux under the GPL, they are in fact granting everyone rights themselves under the GPL. Therefore, they loose the right to sue for any patent infingement contained in any code they have distributed. You can't give someone a non-revokable right in a contract, and later try to revoke that right.
  • How do you hang around this community and not expect that suddenly coming forward with an overexpansive IP claim is going to have everybody jumping down your throat? Haven't they ever been slashdotted? Even in the "What's the least likely way we can make money?" sense, putting this on paper and internally distributing it is a recipe for permanent suspicion.
  • by jmv ( 93421 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:06PM (#5074382) Homepage
    From the press release: "SCO is a Linux vendor and a leading member of United Linux", so SCO is distributing (claimed) patented software. However, from the GPL:

    7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

    That means that by not licensing the patents for free they're violating the GPL. Wonder if that infringement on the GPL could be used to invalidate their claim for money on Linux?
    • That means that by not licensing the patents for free they're violating the GPL. Wonder if that infringement on the GPL could be used to invalidate their claim for money on Linux?

      Possibly. SCO has no right to expect royalties for code that is contributed to the GPL -- there are only two options: one, SCO must allow Linux to to be freely distributed by anyone with no catches or hooks, or two, the infringing code must be removed from Linux before any further distribution by anyone can proceed. Under existing patent laws, SCO has the right to expect renumeration for what has happened so far (and arguably even what may continue to happen), but they have no right to dictate the terms under which their code can be used as long as it is GPL'd. The long and the short of it is that either SCO must suck it up and take the loss (possibly a bad thing, since it would lend more credibility to the idea that the "GPL is a virus" thing), or the infringing code must be removed from the Linux kernel.

    • Since SCO is actually redistributing Linux, they may well have granted every Linux user a license to use their patent under the GPL:

      We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all.
  • BSD init (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FreeLinux ( 555387 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:06PM (#5074385)
    SCO must consider all options, it is after all a revenue generating corporation (supposedly). But, they must consider the risk that such an action would have. Should they decide to enforce such a claim, they risk having to spend a great deal of money defending the lawsuits that would surely arise from other similar companies.

    Now, let's assume for a moment that they go forward with their claim and that it is uncontestable. The next step, naturally, would be for every Linux distribution to switch to the BSD style init system. SCO has no claim to this and therefore gain no further revenue from their System V rights. But, most importantly, no one would trust SCO again. Everything SCO would be shunned by all Linux distros and the community at large. At that point SCO may as well forget their Caldera roots and stop selling Linux completely because no one will buy SCO Linux again. SCO will be forced to try to line from SCO Unix alone and the original SCO proved that this is a very hard thing to do. It will be even harder now, as Linux was not as strong a contender 3 to 5 years ago, at least in the mindshare department.

    I'm sure that SCO will eventually say that they will NOT enforce this claim against Linux but, they need to do it quickly because the longer they wait the less people will trust them.
    • Re:BSD init (Score:2, Funny)

      by Xerithane ( 13482 )
      At that point SCO may as well forget their Caldera roots and stop selling Linux completely because no one will buy SCO Linux again.

      again
      adv.
      1. Once more; anew:

      If people bought it to start with, I don't think we'd have this problem.
    • SCO must consider all options, it is after all a revenue generating corporation (supposedly).

      What ever happened to social responsibility? Way too many people seem to think that it is the responsibility of a corporation to generate profit, regardless of any other concerns (including even it's own long-term concerns).

      Just because you can make money by pretending to be handicapped and begging doesn't mean you aren't a sorry excuse for a human being if you do.

      What if corporation X can have it's profits go up if they have their most vocal critics killed? Should they? Isn't it their responsibility, since it will increase their profits, especially if even after the cost of the fines they will have to pay if they kill these people, they will still have made more than they lost from the endevor? Hey, you can't put a corporation in jail, so they should go for it right?

      Hey, murder is an option right? (albeit an illegal one)
  • by haggar ( 72771 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:07PM (#5074391) Homepage Journal
    The whole point in these two "articles" of sorts is that it would have been much better to just wait and see what exactly is SCO's intention. The first article was jumping the gun (as this one proves), and the reaction of Slashdot is to.. again jump the gun? I almost think some people are using any and all opportunity to spread FUD.

    It's quite simple, really: just wait what the decision will be, and if it turns out that Caldera would want to collect royalties from Linux distro makers, then let all hell break out, badmouth SCO and collect karma points all you like.

    If it turns out, however, that SCO only wants to target Microsoft (which is, if you think about it for a second, the only sound and sane choice, as MS are the only ones that possess cash in aboundance), then I really wonder if all these zealous posters will take their words back and say "sorry, I suck". And remember, SCO (Caldera) has a history of getting money out of MS, so this should be one hint that MS will be the target. And the prosecutor that was mentioned in that first, atroucious writeup, was Boise, who clobbered MS rather badly (or well, depending on your POV) and earned his reputation as MS's nightmare. That should be another hint.
    • If it turns out, however, that SCO only wants to target Microsoft

      And hoist MS on their own petard. Microsoft gave^h^h^h^h loaned money to Caldera to buy SCO to kill SCO. MS used to have a chair on SCO's board, and SCO had to use code done on Xenix coded by MS (when MS was the developer of Xenix) in all versions of SCO.

      The EU made MS back off of that, then MS bailed out of SCO, then sent money Calderia's way. MS denied they did so for Caldera to buy SCO, but it didn't take long between Caldera getting the money and gobbling up SCO.

    • I think you've missed a point here. Like politicians - or, indeed, any political entity - corporations occasionally float "trial balloons" by means of leaks or confidential briefings (where others may be expected to do the leaking for them). The purpose of these trial balloons is to test out controversial new policies while maintaining full deniability, including the ability to reverse course without loss of face.

      In this case, let us say (and it is only a possibility) that SCO Linux is considering suing Linux users for patent violations. This would be controversial, and so they float a trial balloon first. If a big enough fuss is made, NOW, then they will reconsider. If not, they will proceed with the legal nasty-grams to the smallish, underfunded websites to start building their precedents.

      Think it can't happen here? Think [burnallgifs.org] again [slashdot.org].

      -renard

      • I gotta rush home, I'll definitely get back to you though: I have read a rebuttal from SCO where they say unequivocably that they are not going to seek anything from Linux distro's.
  • its not Linux they are after folks..its Oslairs and AIX..

    Of course here are SCO's options:

    -Sue SUN and IBM to enforce IP claims of Unix Solaris or AIX forcing SUN and IBM to fully embrace al Linux distributions except United Linux and SCO's Linux..

    -Admit their business plans suck...

    -Sue Linux distributions over IP claims and become a non player in the Linux community..

    I think they wil press for the suing other unix players option..

    Get your popcorn and get ready for fireworks
    • Not really. SCO doesn't have the $$$ to hold up against the likes of Sun or IBM (IBM most notably). At the first hint of taking them to court, IBM would simply buy SCO, take their patents, layoff all their employees, fire the execs, and then leave what's left in the corner to rot.

      IBM has also been rather protective of Linux ever since it became a viable competitor to Windows, probably just to get back at M$ for stabbing them in the back with that whole OS/2 fiasco years ago. I seriously doubt they're going to let some two-bit company like SCO just walk in and kill it off like M$ did to OS/2. IBM is a company that learns from their mistakes.

      They may just buy out SCO and perform the above actions just to keep Linux alive so that they can sell more servers. IBM's biggest marketing push in the last year has been for the Linux platform. They are certainly not going to watch hundreds of millions in advertising go down the tube.
  • by Grenade of Antioch ( 635095 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:12PM (#5074432)
    Would seem to be whether or not the distribution of a freely distributable version of Linux by the prior owners of SCO, perhaps in violation of their own patents, would in some way negate their current claims. After all, isn't it the case that if you fail to defend your patent or other intellectual property, it becomes harder to defend it later?
  • by MyNameIsFred ( 543994 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:14PM (#5074446)
    To quote the SCO statement on NewsForge
    in fact, we've made no decisions, formed no programs and announced nothing about this
    Timothy said he would "feel better about a straight denial." If that isn't a straight denial, I don't know what is.
  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:16PM (#5074462) Homepage
    So, what's the impact here in the rest of the world where there are no (or few) software patents?

    Are SCO going to pursue every linux user in the US? and if they do, will the US government (that's busy spending billions trying to re-ignite their economy) simply sit back and watch as the rest of the globe becomes more competitive and a better location to establish your business as a result?

    Maybe, just maybe, this is actually what's required though. A really harsh pursuit of a patent by a failing company that sees this crazy ability to patent any and every idea relating to computing, whether it's obvious or even whether it's been done before properly challenged and hopefully halted. And if it's not halted? Well then for many companies it quickly becomes silly to be located in the US.

  • by JohnZed ( 20191 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:16PM (#5074466)
    Perhaps it's appropriate that the very first Unix systems were used to process patents for Bell labs. See: http://www.english.uga.edu/hc/unixhistory.html [uga.edu]

    What goes around, comes around...
  • Hmm, this kind of reminds me of the potentially ruinous case UK-Telco Monster British Telecom tried to bring by claiming they had a valid patent for the hyperlink, thus, every single web site covered by that patent would have to pay them a royalty.

    Yep, that claim was soon chucked out of court, to the embarressed relief of BT's management.

    SCO it seems, are either doing one of two things - either making a somewhat misguided attempt to enforce a perhaps long forgotten patent (and, as has been said, patent on what, exactly?) Or two, just making a real dumb grab for money (kinda like "If it's sitting still, you can hit it - if you can hit it you can kill it!")

    I just hope they fail miserably. This kind of blatent money-grabbing the open source community can *well* do without!

  • by Hayzeus ( 596826 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:20PM (#5074502) Homepage
    From the press release:

    SCO is a Linux vendor and a leading member of United Linux. Contrary to the claims in the Client Server News article, SCO has no desire to take legal action against fellow Linux vendors. As a normal part of business, SCO has had discussions with several legal experts in the field of intellectual property law, and these discussions included David Boies. Contrary to the claims in the Client Server News story, SCO has not engaged Mr. Boies to take legal action against our fellow Linux vendors.

    I mean, geez. What else are they supposed to do?

  • Just download a copy of the "Ancient Unix License" from Caldera [caldera.com]

  • Oh yeah.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by theLOUDroom ( 556455 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:25PM (#5074543)
    They can have my Linux, when they pry it from my cold, dead hand.

  • Uhm...

    "We havent made any decision yet, but we're examining the possibilities."

    "I'm haven't decided to eat anything. Just that sandwich over there."

    "I'm not going to Dave's house, Dad... So can I borrow the car to go to Dave's house?"

    I dont know what to do.. Be disgusted with SCO, or laugh at this, the final death throes of a company on the brink of cartwheeling into Chapter 11. Regardless, i'm sure this is gonna be great for their stock price. Massive shareholder dissent, panic selling..

  • SCO has taken the dark path - they can't inovate, so they litigate.

    They now hire one or more expensive attorneys who will drink all of the company's money in billable hours with no gaurantee of a positive outcome. It is not in Boies' personal best interest to take this to trial in a timely manner. This thing is a cash cow! And even once this goes to court, there is prior art, expert witnesses, appeals, etc...

    During this time SCO isn't making money.

    IBM isn't going to lay down for this one. They've invested billions in Linux, and IBM employees a few lawyers too, so I'm told. IBM and the other companies with a stake in Linux can bury SCO in a shitload of paperwork, court fillings, etc... and Boies finds himself with more billable hours.

    To make a long story stort, if this is a last ditch effort to save the company, they will go broke before they ever see a dime. And once the company goes broke, they aren't a problem to us anymore.

    The lawyers are the only winners.
  • The only basic UNIX patent I know of is the famous "setuid" patent, #4,135,240, issued January 16, 1979, expired January 16, 1999.

    If this is serious, let's hear some patent numbers.

    There might be some petty infringement in some miscellaneous piece of software that ships with Linux, but that could be fixed if necessary. I suspect this whole story is bogus. If there were valid patents involving the basics of UNIX-like operating systems, this would have surfaced long ago.

  • Everyone knows that Al Gore is the father of the internet and by logical extension owns anything that MS or Caldera/SCO does.

    Napolean also invaded France and made peace with the Hebrews.

    What's this do to United Linux, anyways? Does anyone care?

  • "but confirming that it does have significant asset claims in Unix IP" - this means "you can't emulate UNIX or include the ability to run UNIX binaries on other systems without paying us". and remember ppl, GNU is NOT UNIX, so as long as it doesn't run UNIX binaries there's nothing to worry.

    "and it is discussing 'possible strategies." - means "we'll include UNIX support in SCO Linux to make it more apealing to UNIX users"
  • To demand that SCO turns over list of any possible infringements so that they can be coded out asap.
  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:14PM (#5075017) Homepage
    A quick check of the USPTO searchable database turns up only TWO patents to SCO's name (Using SCO's name spelled out for the assignee name as the search criteria) and neither of the two seem to really apply to Linux in general.

    Here's the link to the search request so you can see for yourselves [uspto.gov]

  • by Florian Weimer ( 88405 ) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:55PM (#5075313) Homepage
    First of all, read this document: Microsoft Applauds European Commission Decision to Close Santa Cruz Operation Matter -Decision upholds Microsoft's right to receive royalties if SCO utilizes Microsoft's technology [microsoft.com].

    This means that it's probably not only SCO's IP, but also some of Microsoft's IP that is involved here.

    Unfortunately, Microsoft sold its SCO stock [theregister.co.uk], so this conspiracy theory doesn't quite work out. But hey, the Evil often returns to its former Servants to recruit them again, doesn't it?
  • by erc ( 38443 ) <erc.pobox@com> on Monday January 13, 2003 @07:10PM (#5076445) Homepage
    Back when we were first throwing drivers left and right into the kernel (1992), someone brought up the point that Linux itself might be vulnerable to IP claims if it weren't developed "clean room" style. At that time it was thought that Sun would be the most likely threat, but a message was floated amongst the kernel and application developers, asking anyone who had worked on Sys III/V code or kernel code for anyone else, and I don't remember anyone raising their hand. I worked for Sun during that timeframe, but did not have access to the SunOS or Solaris source.

    Of course, this could all be a desperate ploy by SCO to get cash in the door, but they want to leak it via the rumor mill, to gauge how well it would go over. Credits to Navy beans that, when they get inundated with bad press, they claim that it wasn't a consideration, plausible deniability, all that jazz.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"

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