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Red Hat and SuSE Dismiss SCO's Linux Copyright Claims.

By Matthew Aslett

Linux distributors Red Hat Inc and SuSE Linux AG have dismissed SCO Group Inc's copyright claims against Linux, and see no need for Linux users to license SCO's UnixWare under its new copyright enforcement plan.

Having registered the copyrights for Unix and claimed that Linux users are deploying code that infringes on that copyright, Lindon, Utah-based SCO appears to believe that it has proved its previous allegations that Linux contains code copied from Unix System V. "Today we confirm that fact," said CEO Darl McBride in a conference call on Monday.

Nuremberg, Germany-based SuSE has a different take on the matter, however. "As far as we are concerned we're still waiting for SCO to come out with some facts instead of threats," said SuSE's VP of corporate communications, Joe Eckert. "They still haven't proven that their copyright is in Linux."

Eckert also repeated SuSE's previous statement that it, and its customers, are protected from litigation by cross-licensing agreements between SuSE and SCO that were signed in the formation of the UnitedLinux initiative by the two parties, as well as Turbolinux Inc and Conectiva SA.

"The claims are unsubstantiated," added Raleigh, North Carolina-based Red Hat in a letter to its customers and partners. "We are not party to any lawsuit over Unix code. No one has established publicly or in court that any Unix code has been infringed."

The company went on to maintain that there is no requirement for Linux users to license SCO's UnixWare code. "SCO has not demonstrated that any infringement exists, nor has it established that it owns derivative works in Unix. Nothing has been proven to establish that such a license is needed."

The launch of a Unix licensing scheme gives concerned Linux users a chance to protect themselves from potential litigation. Many, as SCO claims, probably will be prepared to sign up to the licensing scheme to insure themselves against that legal threat.

There is another group of users, however, that will be more prepared to stand up to SCO and request that it proves its claims before they are prepared to hand over any cash. This group could provide the biggest threat to SCO's plan.

SCO is aiming its licensing scheme at end-users rather than Linux distributors. "Our first and primary concern comes from commercial users who are benefiting from this," said McBride. "This is very targeted towards the people that are using Linux, which is end users."

What SCO appears to have forgotten with this statement is that some of the biggest Linux users are the Linux vendors and supporters themselves, however. There are plenty of Linux supporters and users who have deep enough pockets to challenge SCO's copyright infringement claims: Oracle Corp, Dell Inc, Hewlett-Packard Co and IBM Corp, to name but a few.

It is in the interests of Linux vendors and users to challenge SCO's claims of copyright infringement and to seek to force it to prove its claims in a court of law. While SCO's licensing scheme is designed to keep the alleged Linux copyright infringements out of court, it may well be that Linux supporters will prefer to argue their case in front of a judge.

"I think that will probably be the next step," said Eckert, "but it will probably be something that has to be forced by SCO. There's a big up-hill battle for SCO to prove this."

Eckert maintained that it was not up to the Linux community to prove SCO's allegations wrong, but for SCO to prove that its allegations are correct. "The onus really belongs on SCO," he said. "It's not up to the IT industry or customers to react to threats. Right now all we're facing are threats and aggression. We haven't seen any facts."
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Author:Aslett, Matthew
Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 23, 2003
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