SCO's lawsuit against IBM: significant corrections

by Greg Lehey
Last updated: $Date: 2013/06/18 06:25:57 $

I have written a detailed analysis of SCO's attacks against free software, notably IBM and Linux. In the course of doing so, I have made mistakes. When it's pointed out to me, I correct them. To save you reading through everything all the time, I'm listing the more important corrections here. I don't include new material as it comes in, because that's just too much.

Removal of license from source code

There has been some confusion about the licenses in BSD-derived code. In the discussion of Robert Cringely's article, I originally stated:

There's nothing there to say that you can't remove this license agreement.

Theo de Raadt has informed me that removing copyright notices without the permission of the copyright holder is always wrong, even if this is not expressly prohibited. This doesn't affect the point I was trying to make, however: the absence of the current BSD license in the source files is not evidence that anything has been removed.

Who owns UNIX?

On 30 May 2003, Novell reacted with an letter to SCO. It seems that SCO doesn't own the copyrights in the first place. Since then, SCO claims to have found an amendment which suggests they have more rights to UNIX than the Novell letter claims, but we haven't seen any additional statement from Novell. On the other hand, the Open Group has reiterated its ownership of the UNIX trade mark.

UNIX license requires returning derivative code

In the Byte magazine's interview with Chris Sontag, SCO's Senior Vice President, Sontag said:
Everybody was happy to sign tough contracts with these benevolent scientists—licenses which deeded all derivative works back to AT&T, licenses that covered all "methods" and "concepts" of operating systems.
I stated that this was incorrect. I've since heard, but not seen proof, that there was some such clause in the older licenses, but the return was not the exclusive ownership that the term deeded would suggest.

Who is Berkeley?

In the same interview, Sontag is quoted as saying:
"But what about BSD?" I asked. Sontag responded that there "could be issues with the [BSD] settlement agreement," adding that Berkeley may not have lived up to all of its commitments under the settlement.
I wondered who he meant by "Berkeley" and stated that the BSD settlement was with BSDI, now part of Wind River Systems. I have since discovered that both the NetBSD and the FreeBSD projects signed the agreement, represented by Chris Demetriou and Jordan Hubbard respectively.

Are lawyers experts?

In my analysis of the Byte interview with Chris Sontag, SCO's Senior Vice President, I wrote:
How can they use the word "expert" and "lawyer" in the same context? That makes no sense.
It's been pointed out to me that this looks like a cheap shot at lawyers. That's not the way it was meant: the talk here was about computer experts, and that's something else than lawyers. I've added the clarification:
They obviously mean "computer expert", and that's not the same thing as a lawyer.

SCO acquired the rights

In my rebuttal to SCO's complaint, I originally wrote:
57.         When SCO acquired the UNIX assets from Novell in 1995, it acquired rights in and to all (1) underlying, original UNIX software code developed by AT&T Bell Laboratories, including all claims against any parties relating to any right, property or asset used in the business of developing UNIX and UnixWare; (2) the sale of binary and source code licenses to various versions of UNIX and UnixWare; (3) the support of such products and (4) the sale of other products that are directly related to UNIX and UnixWare.

As already observed, this is demonstrably incorrect. On reflection, it could well be correct. The word all is missing in the first sentence. Misleading, possibly, but probably not wrong.

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