SCO copyrights Unix, offers protection to Linux users

The SCO Group Inc. announced Monday that it has registered Unix System V source code with the U.S. Copyright Office and that it will offer Linux users licenses of its UnixWare operating system as protection against possible future copyright violations.

The company, which has sued IBM Corp. for US$3 billion for violating the terms of its AIX contract, is seeking copyright registration as a precursor to enforcing its Unix copyrights, which it says have been added to Linux.

"The copyright laws do not require you to register intellectual property in order to obtain copyright protection, but having filed and received back the registration is a condition precedent to actually bringing the lawsuit," says David Boies, litigator for Boies, Shiller and Flexner of Armonk, N.Y., the company representing SCO in its action against IBM. "What you often have is copyrightable material, like in the Microsoft case, that was not filed until there was a need to bring an enforcement action."

In the case against IBM, SCO has asked the court to issue an injunction that would prevent IBM from distributing AIX. According to a company spokesman, the request for an injunction will be reviewed in 2005.

In May of this year, SCO claimed Linux contained elements of its Unix System V source code. Further, the claimed that IBM had misappropriated Unix System V code and contributed it to Linux.

Until that time, Linux users face some uncertainty related to their use of Linux. According to IDC, Linux shipments will increase from 1.3 million copies in 1999 to 4.7 million copies in 2004.

SCO claims that if companies purchase a runtime binary UnixWare license they will be held harmless of any future actions for use of Linux. The runtime license allows Linux users to run UnixWare and Linux concurrently on the same machine.

"SCO has found a way to give Linux users a legal way to run Linux," says Darl McBride, CEO of SCO. "This license allows both parties’ needs to be met while protecting our Unix property."

The company says it will begin contacting companies this week and offering them a UnixWare license. They say that those customers using Linux have been using software that has been misappropriated from SCO.

SCO says that the multiprocessing capabilities added to the Linux 2.2 and subsequent kernels infringe on its copyrights. They relate to the Non-Uniform Memory Architecture (NUMA), which lets more than two processors execute code concurrently.

The cost of UnixWare 7.13 will be based on the number of servers in the organization.

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