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SCO's last gasp?


By Scott Bradner


Back at the beginning of this year I predicted that SCO would 1/ get it's case against IBM thrown out by the judge, 2/ fail to show any examples of protected code and 3/ declare (financial) bankruptcy but would not edge closer to a 2007 trial date.  There are a few weeks left in the year and it looks like I got the prediction wrong -- but maybe only by a few months.


Here is a quick history lesson for those of you who have been cave dwellers for the last few years (or who only deal with Windows computers).   In March 2003 The SCO Group (SCO) filed suit against IBM claiming that IBM has violated SCO copyrights by putting Unix code into Linux and asking for billions of dollars in damages.  SCO then sued AutoZone, DaimlerChrylser RedHar and Novel.  SCO sent letters to  many companies running Linux systems asking the companies to basically stop using Linux.   (  Both the AutoZone and DaimlerChrylser suits have since been dismissed.


In the years since the IBM suit was filed SCO has claimed that up to a million lines of code were illegally put into Linux by IBM but when push came to shove SCO only identified 326 lines of Linux code to the Court (which SCO will not make public) as infringing SCO copyright.  SCO also launched a full force attack on the GNU General Public License (GPL), claiming that it was unconstitutional among other things.


Some people might dismiss the SCO shenanigans as irrelevant to them and their companies and it might not be directly relevant to companies that do not run Linux or any open source software (e.g., Apache web server) that relies on some type of open source license. Even those folk should be concerned because if SCO were to succeed in its attack on the GPL we would all have fewer choices for software (and please note that Apple OSX has a lot of open source software in it). 


But it is looking like we do not have much to worry about and may not have SCO around to complain about all that much longer.  SCO did not have a good end to 2006 on either the legal or business fronts.


After SCO filed it's final set of documents supporting its claims IBM filed a series of motions (with over 590 exhibits) to dismiss all of SCO's claims and to support the GPL.  Novell filed a motion to compel SCO to pay Novel back royalties. One of the judges in the case ruled that SCO cannot augment its claims against IBM since the deadline to do that has passed and that the SCO/Novell suit should get tried first -- this suit could wind up with SCO not owning the rights that it has been asserting against IBM.  Finally Novel has asked the court to let Novel order SCO to drop many of SCO's claims against IBM because Novel has a contract with SCO that lets Novell do just that sort of thing.


If SCO's money holds out (it has reported big losses in the last few months) the Novel/SCO trial will start next September and the SCO/IBM one (if it happens) sometime in 2008. The way things are going it looks like my prediction just did not take into account the (non) speed of the US legal system.


disclaimer:  I know of no Harvard opinion on this short, relative to Harvard's history, case so the above opinion must be mine.