Unix vendor The SCO Group Inc. is back on the legal offensive after a brief respite following last week's countersuit by IBM Corp. and the opening of a new legal front from Red Hat Inc.
In a webcast Thursday morning during SCO's third-quarter financial conference call with analysts and journalists, SCO CEO and President Darl McBride said that while his company continues to take heat for suing IBM earlier this year, "industry support from partners is strengthening."
"I believe that the silent majority is actually behind SCO in this case," he said. "Others with (intellectual property) they want to protect, they are hoping that SCO is going to prevail. We've been called into the fight, and we're not backing down. We continue to gain in credibility."
McBride also criticized the GNU General Public License (GPL) that's the basis for much of the open-source software marketplace, calling it a "beast" that leaves corporate intellectual property unprotected.
"We've felt from Day 1 in this case that building your [business) on the GPL is like building your headquarters on quicksand," McBride said. "Everyone is terrified that their intellectual property is going to get sucked into this GPL machine and get destroyed."
Lawrence Rosen, general counsel for the nonprofit Open Source Initiative, said in an interview today that McBride's criticisms of the GPL are particularly interesting because SCO sold its own Linux under that same GPL until filing its lawsuit against IBM. "They used it," he said. "How can they now assert that it doesn't apply?"
It will likely be years before the case is decided in court, he said.
"If IBM wins the case, then SCO is out of the game, forget it," he said. "If IBM loses and pays a whole bunch of money to SCO," then that would give SCO its sought-after compensation and essentially release any other Linux users from having to pay damages, Rosen said. He discussed the case in a Q&A posted today on Beaverton, Ore.-based Open Source Development Lab Inc.'s Web site.
Many corporate Linux users, meanwhile, are on the sidelines waiting to decide whether to pay the licensing fees, since no court has yet ruled on SCO's claims. SCO has publicly warned companies using Linux that they could become legal targets.
In March, SCO filed a $1 billion lawsuit against IBM alleging that IBM illegally put some of SCO's protected Unix source code into the open-source Linux project. The lawsuit was later amended to include additional claims and now seeks at least $3 billion. Last week, SCO announced that it would sell special Unix licenses for $699 per processor to allow enterprise Linux users to use Linux legally without violating SCO's alleged intellectual property.
According to SCO's estimates, with some 2.5 million enterprise servers running Linux, there is a "very significant opportunity" for SCO to gain revenue through the licenses, McBride said. At $699 per CPU, that becomes a potential pool of revenue in the neighborhood of $1.7 billion.
"We're cautiously optimistic," he said. "We've done a lot of models on this, and the models are pretty exciting."
A spokesman for McBride said he wasn't available for an interview following Thursday's conference call.