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Open Source Guru Picks Apart SCO Evidence.

By Timothy Prickett-Morgan

Bruce Perens, one of the defenders and evangelists of the open source community, has got his hands on the presentation that the SCO top brass was making last week at SCO Forum in Las Vegas.

Any lawsuit is a gamble, especially one pitting two headstrong technology companies against each other in a jury trial. So Lost Wages was probably as good a setting to divulge what SCO believes are some of the smoking guns.

Perens, as you can see from, is not impressed by the code snippets that SCO rolled out to support its claims in the court of public opinion, which is the only place the SCO-IBM suit is going to be heard before the April 11, 2005 date the U.S. District Court in Utah has set.

By the way, according to Perens, SCO leaked the slideshow to the IDG News Service without an Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA), which calls into question the whole idea that SCO has about doing due diligence with Unix code by not showing the objectionable code snippets to the public at large.

But all of this is beside the point. The real issue is the code snippets themselves, and Perens says that two of the allegedly copied code segments are not, in his analysis, code that belongs to SCO at all. Perens says in his analysis of the presentation that he expected SCO would put the best examples forward to illustrate where intellectual property was stolen.

"But I was easily able to determine that of the two examples, one isn't SCO's property at all, and the other is used in Linux under a valid license," Perens said in his own presentation covering SCO's presentation. "If this is the best SCO has to offer, they will lose."

The first example dealt with Berkeley Packet Filtering (BPF), which is an implementation of Internet firewall software that was created at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory using American tax dollars. He says further that BPF is a derivative work, based on a program called enet developed by Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University, two of the biggies in the Unix movement.

He says BPF was first shipped in BSD Unix 4.3, which was created by the University of California at Berkeley (which gives BSD its name), and SCO later copied this code into Unix System V. The BSD license, says Perens, allows SCO to do this. But, he says, SCO doesn't own BPF, and has no right to prevent anyone, including the Linux community, from using it. Moreover, Perens says that the Linux implementation of BPF is not even BSD code, but a clean-room re-implementation of BPF by Linux developers lead by programmer Jay Schulist based on the documentation provided by BPF.

The other SCO code snippet Perens walks through had to do with memory allocation functions in Unix System V and Linux. He says there was, in fact, "an error in the Linux developer's process," specifically a programmer at SGI, and he says while the Linux community had the legal right to this code, it didn't belong in Linux and was therefore removed.

According to the SCO slides, two-thirds of the new code added to Linux between the 2.2 kernel and 2.4 kernel releases, comprising 1.1 million lines of code in 1,549 files and touched by many of the Unix licensees (including IBM, SGI, and others). This is a pretty big claim, obviously. And Perens, after explaining the similarities between the SCO-IBM case and a lawsuit between AT&T Unix Systems Labs and the University of California and BSDi, which sold BSD Unix, in the early 1990s, brings that point home.

"Under SCO's theory," says Perens, "if any code created by a Unix licensee ever touches Unix, SCO owns that code from then on, and can deny its creator the right to make use of it for any other purpose. SCO's legal theory fails, because they ignore the fact that if a work doesn't contain some portion of SCO's copyrighted code, it is not a derived work."
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Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 26, 2003
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