SCO's termination of IBM's UNIX rights

by Greg Lehey
Last updated: $Date: 2013/06/18 06:24:37 $

Note: The opinions expressed here are my own and have no relationship with the opinions or official viewpoints of any organization with which I am associated

On 16 June 2003, SCO announced that it has terminated IBM's right to use and distribute AIX software.

The last announcement of SCO that I analysed was relatively easy to understand. This one puzzles me, and it's very unclear what the outcome will be. Lawyers say that SCO is unlikely to be able to obtain an injunction against IBM, and of course IBM isn't saying anything. There are only a couple of things that I can comment on here.

LINDON, Utah, Jun 16, 2003 -- The SCO® Group (SCO)(Nasdaq: SCOX), a leading provider of business software solutions, today announced that it has terminated IBM's right to use or distribute any software product that is a modification of or based on UNIX® System V source code.
There's an interesting legal interpretation possible here. I'm sure that AIX contains code derived from UNIX System V, but I wouldn't call it either a modification of UNIX System V, nor is it based on it: AIX has earlier UNIX roots. It would interesting to see how difficult it is to prove that this sentence applies to AIX.

SCO is also today filing an amendment to the complaint against IBM for a permanent injunction requiring IBM to cease and desist all use and distribution of AIX and to destroy or return all copies of UNIX System V source code.
I can imagine the fun that IBM would have with this: get the SCO people to come in and extricate their source code from what AIX has become, leaving the IBM's proprietary code behind.

Where do we go from here? It'll be interesting to see. My guess is that IBM has something big up their sleeve. I'd still laugh my head off if IBM were to say "we threw all System V code out of AIX years ago". It also seems that SCO has forgotten (or never knew) IBM's tactics with the lawsuit brought against them by Control Data Corporation, then a manufacturer of supercomputers and one of the largest computer companies in the world. It's not surprising: there's very little on the web about it. If my memory serves me correctly, that case dragged on for 13 years until the presiding judge retired. Nothing was resolved, but the costs nearly bankrupted Control Data. My memory of this incident may have faded; if anybody can point me to more reliable data, I'd be grateful. Control Data had been successful in an earlier anti-trust suit, but that's not the one I'm talking about.

Other interesting links about this effort are a News.Com interview with Darl McBride. I'm left with the impression that McBride says something completely different every time he opens his mouth.

Obligatory standards rant

To write up these criticisms, I take the HTML source of the web page and extract the content I quote. In the process, I see some pretty filthy HTML. This one is the worst I've seen in a long time. It's apparently hand-written on a Microsoft box. It contains up to 70 consecutive empty lines terminated with \r\n, made up for by having the body of the text, several paragraphs, as a single long line (3532 characters). The W3C markup validation service finds 57 errors. Netcraft reports that the site is running Microsoft-IIS/5.0 on Windows 2000, and it appears that they have never had more than 16 days uptime. This is the world's UNIX stronghold? Admittedly, the data for is just as interesting: they're running Linux.

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