As the world awaits the ramifications of The SCO Group’s Linux intellectual property licence, Linux users with SCO shared libraries installed for running Unix applications may have an additional licence to deal with regardless of the outcome, according to FreeBSD lead developer and Australian Unix User Group president Greg Lehey.
Lehey said many third-party applications developed for SCO systems rely on the proprietary libraries supplied with the operating system. People have found it cheaper to run SCO-based application software under Linux, but they use the SCO libraries.
"SCO claims that its licences only allow the use of the libraries under its own operating system," Lehey said. "It's possible that this claim might stand up in court. In that case, it would be necessary to re-write the applications. That could still be cheaper than running SCO."
The Intel Binary Compatibility Standard (iBCS) is the standard that allows applications that were written for one type of Intel-based Unix to run on another.
Regarding the upcoming Linux IP licence, Lehey scoffed at the idea of any IP infringements.
"With Linux it doesn't have a leg to stand on," he said. "It doesn't even know which parts of the code is [SCO's]. In Las Vegas, it presents Berkeley code as its own as 'evidence' of IP violations."
Open source developer Waldo Bastian said the stage is set for SCO to approach its shared library users in the same way it will with Linux users.
“My prediction is that it is going to see how far it comes by extorting money from Unix licensees who have dropped SCO in favour of Linux and are now using their iBCS libraries to run SCO binaries under Linux,” Bastian said.
“If the company manages to find a single SCO shop that runs software written for SCO Unix on Linux with iBCS in combination with SCO libraries, and that shop has violated somehow the licence terms of this SCO library, it might be able to either sue or agree on a settlement.”
SCO’s Australia and New Zealand managing director, Kieran O’Shaughnessy, said IP infringements originate from inappropriate use of the company’s software and not the standard itself.
“An issue arose when we determined that there is no way to legally run SCO libraries under Linux,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Back in February when our SCOSource initiative started, we released SCO System V for Linux which essentially broke off the SCO shared libraries and made them available for Linux. Since then we have looked deeper into Linux and found that people are doing this illegally and suspended the product.”
O’Shaughnessy said the product was withdrawn because of the company’s IP battles over Linux.
“We don’t see how Linux can be run legally with SCO’s IP in it; however, with the Linux licence, the shared library licence should be made available again,” he said.
Although O’Shaughnessy was confident with the progress of SCO’s business and IP claims, he was less certain about the local availability of both licences.
“I’m still anticipating having the license available to local Linux users before year's end,” he said. “At this stage I don’t have a release date or local pricing.”
According to O’Shaughnessy, SCO has no plans to “go after” SCO shared library users.
“Although we are aware of widespread infringements among SCO shared library users, we would rather pursue the matter with a licence, not litigation.”
O’Shaughnessy declined to comment on code specifics only to say the first attempt at revealing infringing code “didn’t go too well”.