Linux Losers

SCO, how can you invoice enterprise IT for the use of Linux at this time? SCO is out to extract licence fees for what seems like relatively small amounts, but why should enterprises pay for SCO code before it is even established in law that they have acquired some of this property, inadvertently or not?

Many have rejected SCO's levy plans, but some CIOs and IT managers in the US have expressed a willingness to pay the fees just to make the problem go away. This 'pay us now or face a possible boot up the arse later on' is a disgraceful go-to-market strategy.

The SCO Group's Australia and New Zealand managing director, Kieran O'Shaughnessy, faced a fuming audience during a panel session at the Australian Unix Users Group (AUUG) annual conference held recently in Sydney. At the event, O'Shaughnessy conceded that the legal threat against Linux users remained, and that "the SCO licence for Linux will be available in Australia and New Zealand within the next couple of months".

The local invoicing, if it happens, would follow SCO's US plans to send invoices to companies for the use of Linux, and follows a program launched in August which urged customers using Linux based on kernel 2.4 or higher to buy the SCO Intellectual Property Licence for Linux. According to reports, the licence is aimed at getting customers "clean" and "square" with Linux "without having to go into the courtroom". It is being offered for $US700 per CPU until October 15 when it's said the price will double.

"There may be problems with commercial Linux users," he said. "The SCO licence for Linux will be available in Australia and New Zealand within the next couple of months." Despite popular belief, O'Shaughnessy said, "It is our desire to share information among interest groups."

Not at AUUG, but making related statements was US-based SCO spokesman Blake Stowell. He reckons that the invoices will "help formalise the process of buying a licence".

Stowell attempts to play down the fact that SCO's lawsuit against IBM isn't even scheduled for trial until April 2005 in saying that copyright violations within Linux, which might affect commercial Linux users, aren't even part of that original filing.

"The trial specifically addresses Unix derivative code that IBM contributed to Linux," Stowell says. "This (SCO Intellectual Property Linux Licence) would certainly cover that, but in addition the licence also covers line-by-line copying of direct Unix System code from Unix into Linux. We've never accused IBM of direct line-by-line copying."

This is detail. Nobody doubts the suggestion of legal action is the stick driving the proposed licence levy.

Legal experts such as Lawrence Rosen, general counsel for the Open Source Initiative, recently wrote the following in a paper: "Q&A re: SCO vs IBM": "Assume the very worst: Assume SCO wins its case against IBM and IBM writes a big cheque for damages. Assume SCO proves that some portion of Linux is a copy or derivative work of its trade secret software. Assume SCO gets an injunction to prevent anyone from using any version of Linux containing infringing code. . . . Long before that happens there will be a new open source version of Linux omitting any SCO code. . . . The SCO vs IBM lawsuit is not likely to have any real impact on Linux users. It is a battle of big companies that will be resolved in due course by the court, perhaps by the payment of money. In the meantime, and forever, Linux is available free." Good advice.

If you get an invoice, ask exactly why you should pay it.

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