SCO evidence falls flat in Sydney

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Businesses should move forward with their adoption of open source, despite fears that they may be targeted by SCO for breach of copyright, industry representatives said at a recent Unix conference.

Businesses should move forward with their adoption of open source, despite fears that they may be targeted by SCO for breach of copyright, industry representatives said at a recent Unix conference.
 
In the US, SCO in March sued IBM for US$1 billion for what it alleges are breaches of copyright and license involving Unix source code which was leaked into the Linux kernel. The suit in progress has sparked a global industry firestorm and been blamed for a slowdown in enterprise Linux and open source adoption.
 
Greg Lehey, president of the Australian Unix and Open Systems User Group (AUUG), speaking in the 'Who Owns Unix?' panel discussion at the AUUG conference in Sydney yesterday, said that he hadn't seen 'even the slightest snippet' of evidence proving SCO's case.
 
Lehey said the only two examples of allegedly misappropriated source code – allegedly initially leaked by CT Magazine in Germany - that had so far been produced cast doubt on SCO's claims of intellectual property theft.
 
'I took a look at this code. The first was a version which did come from Unix, no question. However, when SCO made [its claims], it had already been removed from the Unix kernel because it's too ugly. It had been taken out of all commercial Unix by the mid-80s,' he said.
 
Lehey said the first piece of code appeared to be taken from Unix programming written in 1973.
 
The second example appeared to be from a program written by - and therefore copyrighted to – the University of California at Berkeley, he said.
 
'It's very similar to code ... from the Berkeley packet filter,' Lehey said.
 
Interestingly, the University of California licensing disclaimer appeared to have been removed from the piece of code, Lehey said.
 
'We happen to know the person who wrote the Linux version [of this]. And he is paranoid about copyright,' Lehey said. 'So I'm quite disappointed in the examples that SCO has given.'
 
Con Zymaris, CEO of services provider Cybersource and convenor of business lobby Open Source Victoria, agreed with Lehey.
 
SCO's argument that it dare not make public any further pieces of code relating to the case for fear of prejudicing its case or leaking trade secrets was not convincing, he said.
 
'I would contend that, because this code is not forthcoming [from SCO], then it doesn't exist,' he said.
 
Zymaris further argued that SCO's allegations that 'obfuscation' and 'derivation' of Unix source code in Linux was a breach of copyright was not correct. One could not copyright or trademark a concept either, he claimed.
 
'That's not a copyright issue, that's a dispute between SCO and IBM ... related to breach of contract,' he said.
 
Therefore, open source users need not fear they will be targeted by SCO for breach of copyright, Zymaris argued.
 
Kieran O'Shaughnessy, managing director of SCO Group in Australia, said he could not answer any 'technical' or 'legalistic' questions about the examples of code.
 
'But Linux is an unauthorised derivative of Unix and there is significant Unix code in Linux ... some 1,000,000 lines,' he said.
 
Asked whether he thought the media attention surrounding SCO's IBM lawsuit and threats to commercial Unix users would hamstring open source, O'Shaughnessy said it was not SCO's intention to damage the open source industry.
 
He denied that SCO was a dying company and that SCO had threatened personal users of Linux with lawsuits, as had been widely reported in the media.
 
'It's not a pump-and-dump act,' O'Shaughnessy said. 'SCO's contention is that ... the contribution of Unix code into Linux has significantly damaged its [SCO's] business.'
 
He said Linux developers had been guilty of literal copying, obfuscation, and direct derivation of copyright Unix code but he was not in a position to offer any further evidence countering technical objections to the validity of the examples of allegedly misappropriated code SCO had produced. 'The marketing guy always gets it,' O'Shaughnessy said.
 

 

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