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SCO Receives Poisonous Reception at Ivy

The SCO Group took its intellectual property challenge of Linux to Harvard on Monday and received a cold reception from area students opposed to the company's legal tactics.

In a presentation hosted by the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology on Monday, Darl McBride, SCO president and CEO, and Chris Sontag, senior vice president and SCOsource general manager, defended their decision to pursue corporations and users who violate what they consider their intellectual property.

The presentation, called "Defending Intellectual Property Rights in a Digital Age," outlined the company's decision to sue IBM for violating a contract between the two. Last March, officials at the Lindon, Utah, software company filed a $3 billion lawsuit saying Big Blue programmers lifted thousands of lines of code from licensed Unix System V code and used them to bolster the Linux kernel.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday in Utah, where SCO lawyers will press IBM to release its AIX code for review by the company. Last month, the federal judge presiding over the lawsuit ruled SCO must show all the code under contention before IBM is required to show its own code. If SCO doesn't provide all the code in question, Judge Brooke Wells ruled, a suspension on all fact-finding evidence -- or, motions to compel evidence -- would continue.

McBride stressed from the beginning of the speech his company's desire to keep open source software, well, open, but not at the expense of code copyrighted to SCO, through its ownership of subsidiary Caldera Systems.

"I do believe, that as a society, we're on a very slippery slope right now if we move down this path of 'let's all jump on the software is free and software is good movement,' " he said. "I've had my eyes opened the last year or so."

He said IBM, with its insistence of open standards for all software, is trashing the "world of proprietary systems," which he sides with as a copyright owner. He threw a subtle jab at the Armonk, N.Y., company, which filed more patent requests than any other company in the U.S. the past three years.

"The minute (IBM) puts its 10,000 patents into the public domain, I will follow you with my product," he said.

Perhaps expecting a more relaxed reception in a region still celebrating the Super Bowl victory of its New England Patriots, he found himself in the middle of a crowd that was almost entirely pro-Linux. Several MIT students asked pointed questions.

The crowd certainly wasn't happy to hear Sontag say the software company would continue its legal pursuit of Linux users violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA). While SCO would "likely" not go after, say, a college student using Linux for educational purposes, companies that derive profits from Linux use were fair game, he said.

One student, who said he distributed copies of Linux outside the hall, offered to hand out more after the talks. Another asked why SCO refrained from publicizing the code they claim is infringing, so the Linux community could gut the code from the kernel and move forward without risk of violating copyrights.

McBride said that while Linux is the compilation of thousands of people donating their time and programming skills to improve kernel code created by Linus Torvalds, SCO deserves compensation for the improvements it made to Linux. Without the illegal use of SCO's code, he said, Linux isn't an attractive option anymore for high-end servers.

"We think that if you rip that code out, it's going to make Linux not nearly as attractive," he said. "But, if the common wisdom is to take that out, and to go down that path, assuming we win that court case, then absolutely that's something we'd sign up for."

At one point, McBride, explaining what he thinks is the Linux community's efforts to damage SCO through Web site attacks, asked a student whether he was affected by the MyDoom.A e-mail virus, which targeted Outlook and Outlook Express users and installed malicious code used to launch a massive distributed denial of service attack .

The attack, which began over the weekend and culminated Sunday, swamped SCO's home page domain name and forced the company to move it to another Monday morning.

When asked the question, the student replied with a hint of humor in his tone: "No, I have Linux."