SCO Shuts Down German Site

SCO Group has shut down its German Web site, in
response to a restraining order obtained in that country by German Linux
advocacy group LinuxTag.


SCO spokesman Blake Stowell told internetnews.com that the company
took down its German site, which now simply
comes up blank, on Friday. The company has also removed links to the site
from its U.S. site.


“We had received a temporary restraining order by a German court on behalf
of LinuxTag,” Stowell said, adding that the company is duking it out in
court.


In May, LinuxTag was roused by letters SCO sent to
some 1,350 companies warning them they may be held liable for using Linux,
which SCO claims “is an unauthorized derivative of Unix,” to which SCO
claims rights.


Although SCO has only taken legal
action
against IBM for misappropriation of trade secrets (for allegedly
releasing Unix code or derivative works to the Linux community in breach of
its contract with SCO), SCO continues to claim that substantial amounts of
Unix code has been written into Linux.

“We’re especially concerned about version 2.4 and beyond of the Linux
kernel,” SCO’s Chris Sontag, senior vice president of its SCOsource
intellectual property licensing division, said last week.

Responding to SCO’s assertions, LinuxTag accused SCO of “unfair competitive
practices,” and said on May 23 that “SCO Group is sowing uncertainty among
the community of GNU/Linux users, developers and suppliers.”

“SCO needs to stop claiming that the standard Linux kernel violates its
copyrights, or they need to lay the evidence for their claim on the table,”
LinuxTag’s Michael Kleinhenz said at the time.

The association demanded that the German SCO subsidiary retract its claims
regarding ownership of Linux kernel code by May 30, or make its evidence
public. “SCO must not be allowed to damage its competitors by
unsubstantiated claims, to intimidate their customers, and to inflict
lasting damage on the reputation of GNU/Linux as an open platform,”
Kleinhenz added.

SCO removed the copy of the letter from its Web site, but in the meantime
LinuxTag obtained a temporary restraining order against the company.

In the meantime, SCO faces a potentially more serious challenge from Novell
, the company which sold Unix to SCO in 1995.

On May 28, Jack L. Messman, chairman, president and CEO of Novell,
responded to SCO’s claims by asserting that when Novell sold Unix System V
to SCO in 1995, the asset purchase agreement did not transfer the
copyrights and patents.

“Importantly, and contrary to SCO’s assertions, SCO is not the owner of the
Unix copyrights. Not only would a quick check of U.S. Copyright Office
records reveal this fact, but a review of the asset transfer agreement
between Novell and SCO confirms it. To Novell’s knowledge, the 1995
agreement governing SCO’s purchase of Unix from Novell does not convey to
SCO the associated copyrights,” Messman said in an open letter to SCO CEO
and President Darl McBride. “We believe it unlikely that SCO can
demonstrate that it has any ownership interest whatsoever in those
copyrights. Apparently, you share this view, since over the last few months
you have repeatedly asked Novell to transfer the copyrights to SCO,
requests that Novell has rejected. Finally, we find it telling that SCO
failed to assert a claim for copyright or patent infringement against IBM.”

But McBride fired
back
two days later, calling Messman’s claims a “desperate measure to
curry favor with the Linux community,” adding that he is confident that SCO
does in fact own the copyright per the transfer agreement between SCO and
Novell.

“We will be settling those issues in court,” McBride said.

Legal experts have also suggested that if SCO does in fact hold the
copyrights for Unix, it could well have difficulty bringing claims home if it decides to press the issue, especially since
SCO itself was a distributor of Linux until last month, when it decided to
suspend
sales
of its Linux. At the time, the company said the suspension would
be temporary, until “the attendant risks with Linux are better understood
and properly resolved.”

When he challenged Novell’s claims last week, McBride acknowledged that
subsequent events make SCO’s return to selling Linux a diminishing
possibility.

Unix Background
Unix was developed at AT&T’s Bell Labs in 1969, but its history since then
has been convoluted at best, leading experts like Open Source Initiative President Eric
Raymond to delineate definitions for various operating systems that fall
into the Unix family. Raymond uses “genetic Unix” to describe those
operating systems which are derivative works of the original Bell Labs
Unix.

Outside contributors, especially academics working from UC Berkeley and
other institutions, supplied much of Unix’s development after 1975,
according to Raymond. Around 1980, Berkeley Unix hackers added Internet
capability to the code base. By 1990, the relationship between AT&T’s Unix
Systems Laboratories (USL) and Berkeley had soured, leading to a three year
lawsuit with a settlement that severed Berkeley’s version of the Unix
source, BSD, from AT&T. In 1992, the Unix trademark passed to the Open Group, a technical standards
consortium which now maintains the Unix standard. Unices which adhere to
and verify conformance with the standard are “trademark Unix” operating
systems.

The Bell Labs code passed from AT&T to USL when AT&T spun it off in 1992 in
a joint venture with Novell (the Unix trademark went to Open Group — then
known as X/Open — as part of the deal). Novell bought AT&T’s stake in USL
in 1993. The property then passed from Novell to SCO in 1995. Meanwhile,
the Unix universe had seen a birth of a number of other Unices,
including:

  • AIX, IBM’s Unix, a proprietary genetic and trademark Unix developed
    between 1987 and 1990

  • Solaris, the proprietary genetic and trademark Unix used by Sun
    Microsystems

  • SCO Open Server, SCO’s version of Unix, a proprietary genetic and
    trademark Unix dating back to the early 1980s

  • BSD, an open source genetic Unix, but not a trademark Unix, which now
    has three variants of its own

  • Linux, an open source variant developed in Finland in 1991 which
    Raymond said is neither a genetic Unix nor a trademark Unix.

SCO added UnixWare, the brand name carried by later versions of Bell Labs’
Unix, after it acquired it in 1995. In the meantime, to further muddy the
picture, System V, the Unix that later evolved into UnixWare, borrowed from
4.4BSD, leading Berkeley to sue.

“It seems that from as far back as before 1985, the historical Bell Labs
code base has been incorporating large amounts of software from the BSD
sources,” Raymond said in OSI’s position paper on
the SCO-vs.-IBM complaint
. “The University’s cause of action lay in the
fact that AT&T, USL and Novell had routinely violated the terms of the BSD
license by removing license attributions and copyrights.”

The lawsuit was settled and the record sealed.

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