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SCO Goes After The Father Of Linux

The man who helped bring the Linux operating system to life was subpoenaed this week to testify in a legal battle between SCO Group and IBM . But analysts say the legal maneuvers are nothing less than an elaborate public relations stunt.

Linus Torvalds' current employer, Beaverton, Oregon-based Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) issued a statement Friday saying that both received subpoenas on Wednesday from attorneys for SCO requesting that OSDL and Torvalds produce documents for use in that dispute.

OSDL Marketing Director Nelson Pratt told internetnews.com that the company has agreed to fund legal representation for Torvalds and any other employees of the Lab who may become involved in the litigation.

"Any reasonable corporation that has respect for its employees helps protect their rights," Pratt said. "We're not doing anything different. This is strictly a business issue."

Lindon, Utah-based SCO has also subpoenaed five other parties who have had a hand in the formation of Linux including OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen; Founder of GNU Project and Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman; Digeo Corp., which employs Linux kernel maintainer Andrew Morton; Novell ; and John Horsley, vice president and general council at Transmeta , Torvalds' last employer.

SCO said the subpoenas help it gather information around IBM's interactions with these individuals. The company sued IBM last March alleging that Big Blue made its proprietary version of the UNIX operating system, AIX, available to the open source community. IBM countersued in August, filing in a Utah court claiming that SCO's case breaches contract with IBM, infringes on its patents and signifies unfair competition, among other things.

Since then, a number of sticky legal entanglements have ensued between SCO and other vendors who employ Linux, including Red Hat and SGI. SCO officials also have said they would consider going after individual users whom they feel have misused the company's Unix product, raising the ire of the Linux community as well.

Members of that community claim that these actions would directly contradict the Gnu Public License (GPL), copyright law that essentially ensures the continued freedom of open-source code.

Free Software and Open Source authority Bruce Perens calls the whole thing a smokescreen.

"Linus is not the party that has the information," Perens told internetnews.com. "I think the most they would do is some characterization assassination. And asking Richard Stallman to testify is absurd. If that is the case, why not subpoena the Dalai Lama?"

IBM sent its subpoenas out late last month to people who have seen the code in question. The list includes investment companies BayStar Capital, Renaissance Ventures LLC, and Deutsche Bank AG. IBM also subpoenaed industry analyst company Yankee Group, whose Senior Analyst Laura DiDio had earlier examined the UNIX System V source code that SCO claims was illegally copied into Linux.

What Perens said does count though is SCO's PR war sometimes allows them to continue their fight.

"What they are counting on is investors who don't follow the case close enough and those people who think this is a big deal," he said. "What is happening here is that SCO is trying to divert attention away from the fact that there is quite literally nothing they can do can win the case. They can still make lots and lots of money, but this is the largest degree of deceptiveness I've seen."

Meantime, SCO Friday filed papers in a Delaware court to give it more time to prepare its legal case against Red Hat . The motion entitled "Defendant's Consolidated Reply in Support of Defendant's Motion to Stay Discovery Pending Resolution of the Motion to Dismiss and Its Motion for Enlargement of Time" asks the Delaware court to put off its case while it waits on a pending dismissal of Red Hat's complaint against SCO. Analysts say the courts will more than likely resolve the SCO v. IBM suit before moving on to the SCO v. Red Hat case.