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SCO To Expand Its Lawsuit Beyond Linux

LAS VEGAS -- The man who claims there are Unix copyright violations within the Linux open source operating system is taking his fight to the Berkeley Software Design (BSD) community, which maintains an open source "genetic" version of Unix .

SCO Group CEO Darl McBride said his company is currently comparing source code awarded in a 1994 settlement between AT&T's Unix Systems Laboratories and BSD, in which Berkeley's version of the Unix source was severed from the proprietary version.

The Lindon, Utah-based SCO claims its copyrighted Unix code was incorporated into Linux without authorization or appropriate copyright notices. It has sued IBM over the issue and said this week other lawsuits are planned against major users of Linux.

"I agree that the more yarn you pull out the more you see," McBride said during a press briefing at the inaugural Enterprise IT Week at cdXpo Conference here. "We have enough sorted out, but we are so focused on the [IBM litigation]. With our limited energies and what our guys are going through, we probably won't file any suits against BSD until sometime in the first half of next year."

But that has not precluded SCO from announcing Tuesday that it plans on firing off another round of legal maneuvers in the next 90 days aimed at a major user of the Linux operating systems. McBride said SCO warned the Fortune 1,000 and the Global 500 earlier this year, in the form of an open-letter, that said legal action could be possible if they don't pay a licensing fee on parts of the Linux operating system that SCO alleges are infringing on its copyright.

McBride said his legal team has compiled a list of about 24 companies, including some international firms, that it is contacting over its copyright infringment claims.

"SCO is contacting customers to either license or litigate," McBride said during his keynote. "As we go forward we will continue to do battle, but we hope for a position where we can settle this amicably."

During the past seven months, the company said it has uncovered a number of substantial software code issues as they pertain to SCO's Unix intellectual property and Linux. The company has already filed a lawsuit against IBM last March alleging that Big Blue made its proprietary version of the Unix operating system, AIX, available to the open source community.

During his remarks here, McBride's urged companies to be wary of viewing Linux as a "free lunch" and to protect their assets as voraciously as he has. The former Novell executive cited recent projections by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that software will be a $229 billion industry by 2007.

"One of the biggest problems is that if you don't have the ability to protect what you have then your value is next to nothing," McBride said. "We have been placed in a tug of war between those who think software should be free and those who want to license it."

For example, McBride said his 30-day audit of the company found the single largest asset that Caldera (SCO's name before it was changed) held at the time was the Unix operating system.

"So I asked the question, 'have you thought about what impact this would have?' And I heard two things: one was [the audit] found violations with Linux. The other was that the company would be crucified by the Linux community."

McBride said the discovery drove the decision to reorganize the company; it later stopped losing money but growing revenue was still a slog. By aggressively pursuing copyright infringement cases, SCO said it is only seeking its fair share of the estimated $21 billion Unix marketplace.

"If I were to ask you a year ago who owns Unix, would you have said SCO?" McBride posed to attendees during his keynote address. "Most people would have said IBM, HP or Sun, but that would not be true."

To that end, McBride predicted that the current General Public License that accompanies some open source software would not survive and that his company would prevail in court.

"There is a misconception that SCO wants to destroy Open Source and Linux," said McBride. "Certainly we believe strongly that there needs to be checks and balances, that open source has merit. We think there is a way for both to be possible."

SCO's case against IBM has now been set for March 11, 2005 in a Utah courtroom.

Enterprise IT Week at cdXpo is produced by Jupitermedia, the parent company of this Web site.

Editor's note: A previous version of the story referred to SCO's "patent" claims. SCO Group owns the copyright to the UNIX code, not the patent.