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Microsoft To License SCO's Unix Code 817 817

The big news of this morning is that Microsoft will evidently be licensing the Unix code that SCO carries the rights to. Yahoo! is also carrying a brief WSJ report as well. Additionally, give a read to the OSI position paper on the issue. One thing that is worth noting is that Microsoft does do *some* work with Unix - like the interoperability package - but the other side is that Microsoft deals with intellectual property a lot, and licensing is standard way of dealing with IP claims.
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Microsoft To License SCO's Unix Code

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:18AM (#5990423)
    i hadn't expected that SCO's "buy me"-whining would actually work, but then again it's MS and they prolly have some evil plan with this all...
  • A Better Reason (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 1stflight (48795) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:18AM (#5990425)
    It's more likely there's some "borrowed" code in Windows. Anyone else remember the bzip bug that for some odd reason also affected Windows systems. Yeah go figure.
  • No big deal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bwalling (195998) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:19AM (#5990426) Homepage
    SCO released whatever the technology was under the GPL in their Linux release (most likely), which means Linux is likely safe. That is of no use to Microsoft, they need a closed source license. So, they would have to license it from SCO.
  • If anything, this lends even more credibility to the theory that M$ was behind this all along.

    IBM, just go ahead and buy SCO, GPL everything they own, and let's put this silliness behind us.
  • uh-oh! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by estes_grover (466087) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:23AM (#5990441)
    Late Sunday, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said acquiring the license from SCO "is representative of Microsoft's ongoing commitment to respecting intellectual property and the IT community's healthy exchange of IP through licensing. This helps to ensure IP compliance across Microsoft solutions and supports our efforts around existing products like services for Unix that further Unix interoperability."

    read: "We will, we will crush you."
  • by Motherfucking Shit (636021) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:24AM (#5990444) Journal
    then again it's MS and they prolly have some evil plan with this all...
    My guess is that this is a strategic move by MS to try and seriously impact Linux.

    We're always talking here at Slashdot about patent abuse, and how patent houses go after "infringing" small fish first to set precedent for the bigger fish. By agreeing to pay off SCO, Microsoft may have just saved SCO the trouble of going after the small fish. The argument for smalltime Linux distros against paying royalties for the supposedly infringing code gets a bit tougher when SCO comes to you and says "look, even Microsoft ponied up and were too afraid to risk a legal battle."
  • Let's keep calm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chthonicdaemon (670385) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:25AM (#5990448) Homepage Journal
    I have been following the whole SCO issue with some interest. This is exactly what closed source strategies cause: a lot of he-said-she-said finger pointing about use of 'our code' and not a lot of progress for mankind.

    On the bright side, even if the whole of Linux gets rejected, someone will come up with 'clean' code (like Atheos). There will always be free (as in speech) software. Unless DRM gets global support.
  • History (Score:5, Interesting)

    by norwoodites (226775) <[pinskia] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:26AM (#5990453) Journal
    Do people already forgot that an UNIX from M$ had happened called XENIX which became SCO OpenServer?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:30AM (#5990465)
    Call me synical, but to me this looks like Microsoft has found a way to help fund the supposed distruction of Linux, or at least that's what they think.

    What would be funny however, is if IBM we're to buy SCO, and then license everything under GPL everything, revoke all previous licenses, then Microsoft would have problems because it uses GPL, and everyone would know it. However this is unlikely to happen because UNIX code is everywhere, which would likely mean that IBM would have to GPL portions of AIX.
  • Simmer down now (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BrianUofR (143023) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:31AM (#5990467)

    This isn't so crazy, so let's calm down. Windows NT is a POSIX-compliant operating system, so I'm not surprised if there's a non-trival amount of Unix-like development going on in Redmond.

  • by sql*kitten (1359) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:31AM (#5990468)
    Microsoft once had a Unix OS product of their own, Xenix. It ran on the old PC/AT processor (Linux needs at least a 386 for the hardware MMU). Way back in the day, Microsoft licensed Unix from AT&T, ported it to a variety of platforms (many of which no longer exist, this was in the 1970s), then sold Xenix to SCO, who ported it to the 386 and sold it as their own product for a while. Back then, while you could license source code from AT&T, the Unix name wasn't included, hence the name Xenix for what was essentially indistinguishable from "official" Unix. I believe a term of the sale was that Microsoft would not compete directly in the Unix space. I guess that condition must have expired. How amusing that Microsoft are now trying to license their own product back!
  • by graveyhead (210996) <fletch@NOsPAm.fletchtronics.net> on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:33AM (#5990476)
    Does anyone else find it ironic that one of the founders of SCO is named "Ransom Love"? I'm not sure exactly why, but in the context of the current lawsuit and now this possible merger, I find that extremely funny :P
  • by Catiline (186878) <akrumbach@gmail.com> on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:35AM (#5990487) Homepage Journal
    The argument for smalltime Linux distros against paying royalties for the supposedly infringing code gets a bit tougher

    Except that anyone, even the IANALs around here (of which I am one) should know that a never went to court ``settlement'' like this carries absolutely zero legal precedent.

    Instead, the way that I see this is simple: if Microsoft was -- as some have claimed -- funding this lawsuit, there had to be a monetary transaction somewhere. Until now, there wasn't any such transaction; while this is not in any manner a proof that Microsoft is the power behind the curtain, it does, coupled with their past statements on Linux as being harmful to IP, make this appear more like one of their publicity stunts.

    I have no doubt that IBM will ride this out to its' logical conclusion, and we shall have another AT&T vs. BSD case.
  • by gol64738 (225528) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:36AM (#5990492)
    IBM, just go ahead and buy SCO, GPL everything they own, and let's put this silliness behind us.

    as easy as that sounds, it literally makes me sick to think that SCO will be receive one single penny from this.

    SCO, in all of their selfishness, deserves nothing. it is not the fault of the community if SCO's business model did not put more focus into the linux market by establishing a distro and services very much like Redhat has done.

    Before even hearing that Microsoft is now involved, I had a hunch that this would be a perfect thing for MS to push. From the surface, it makes the GPL look shaky and raises doubts for IT departments allow linux onto production systems; what a perfect attack.

    however, having been involved with the linux and open source community for almost 10 years, i know how strong of a voice we have. you can bet the community won't sit idle and let this foolishness actually happen.

    good luck brothers! i fear this battle will be the biggest linux has ever faced, and i know we will stand together and not let corporate greed foil our plans for an open world of computing.
  • Re:A Better Reason (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nano2nd (205661) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:37AM (#5990495) Homepage
    It's very likely given that they owned the code in the 80's. The (very) abridged history goes something like this.. Micro$oft licensed Unix from AT&T and produced Xenix - a Unix-based OS for a variety of platforms including x86.

    Over time, this ended up in the hands of SCO. When you log onto a SCO Openserver box, the following is displayed:

    SCO OpenServer(TM) Release 5
    (C) 1976-1998 The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc.
    (C) 1980-1994 Microsoft Corporation
    All Rights reserved

    So one school of thought could definitely suggest that M$ are covering their own backs by licensing "borrowed code" they've been using for the last 20 years.

    However, what they have to fear from SCO I can't imagine.
  • by Kefaa (76147) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:38AM (#5990499)
    Microsoft has a history of buying out competition and FUD. They have been watching as Linux constantly forged ahead regardless of the attacks they placed. Linux was not responding as a company would and MS could not deal with 100,000 developers, they needed a company.

    They just got one.

    My prediction: Every MS sales manager will be out in force over the next fews weeks. At every MS supported site they will be sending the same message:
    "I see you have Linux here. Just a word of advice, we are going to be pursuing litigation over some of "our" intellectual rights that have been stolen, and we really want to keep our customers protected. You may want to move to MS products before you get caught up in something ugly.

    For your own protection."


    While we don't like it, we should not be surprised by it. They have a $30 billion check book to keep this tied up in court for years. They won't want a resolution, they want litigation or the threat of it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:46AM (#5990522)
    Remember when FreeBSD got sued by AT&T and lost market/mindshare to Linux during that mess?

    Now the situation has reversed.

    I wonder if FreeBSD will regain some of the lost marketshare as a result of this.

    After all, it was rewritten to get rid of intellectual property issues so people who migrated to avoid this particular risk might find it attractive.

  • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:47AM (#5990527)
    Buying SCO's Unix IP and going after Linux with that would most likely result in more antitrust attention at Microsoft. It is much more convenient for them that someone else is doing the suing.
  • How about OSX? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by questamor (653018) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:54AM (#5990539)
    What hold would this give MS over Apple's OSX? I can't see MS going for the jugular with respect to Linux but leaving Apple all alive and well.

    Apple use UNIX on their site, they're selling a FreeBSD based UNIX derivative. Do MS now control the fate of the name UNIX, the style of OS that is UNIX, or just a few choice bits of code that nobody will give a shit about?
  • by cdrudge (68377) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:55AM (#5990540) Homepage
    Microsoft also owned a stake in SCO. I beleive the maximum that they ever owned at one time was about 10% or so. Whether they still do I am not sure, but up until the previous version of SCO OpenServer 5.0.6, you would get a Copyright Microsoft message at every reboot.
  • by AKnightCowboy (608632) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:57AM (#5990545)
    Actually there could never have been much doubt. SCO by itself doesn't have either much reason or power to play with IBM without covert backing from Redmond. Was there any other reason for their going directly after IBM and ignoring RH/SuSE?

    Hey, it's the UNIX Cold War. On one side you have an evil superpower secretly supporting small rogue states (the USSR, Microsoft) fighting against the good guys of freedom (IBM, Vietnam, South Korea, etc.). My personal conspiracy theory is that SCO (aka Caldera) leaked the code into the general Linux base at the request of Microsoft so that they could bring about this case. It's not like there's a big central CVS repository that comprises "Linux".

    They could've sneaked the code in through some little lame package, then someone came along and borrowed the routines from that to build a bigger program, and then someone used those library routines to go build Gimp or even glibc. Pretty soon your whole distribution is infected by the GPL's viral license. Ingenious.

  • by eXtro (258933) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:57AM (#5990546) Homepage
    No, the GPL does not make that impossible at least in a legal sense. I can stick as many license agreements and copywrite notices around a piece of code as I want, if I don't actually have the rights to do so it isn't binding. So if there actually is tainted code in Linux then it does cause jeapordy regardless of the GPL since the GPL doesn't apply.


    Unless I've missed it SCO hasn't said exactly what part of the kernel they're claiming rights on. At some point that will have to be revealed and the kernel developers can examine their alternatives.


    I still think that companies shouldn't be allowed to sit in stealth mode while they wait for the proper time (such as imminent bankruptcy in SCO's case) to perform their legal jack-in-the-box stunt.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:58AM (#5990550)
    Predition of future: Microsoft determines linux stole source from its Unix OS, sues and linux becomes illegal.

  • by ctid (449118) on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:01AM (#5990558) Homepage
    Microsoft is trying to create publicity for the court case. At this stage, all that SCO has achieved is to raise a few doubts about Linux, specifically in the area of "intellectual property". By licensing SCO's IP, they are drawing attention to the issue, and putting it onto Internet news sites' front pages. It's easy to then segue from there to the discussion of how Linux raises IP questions for those business that use it. From MS's point of view, this is just an extremely cheap negative advertising campaign, without the risk that MS will get criticized for negative advertising.

  • by g4dget (579145) on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:03AM (#5990565)
    Just to be clear, this isn't just an accidental effect, it seems almost certainly planned to me. Microsoft loves the SCO lawsuit because it validates their own unfounded rantings against Linux. But if they just handed money to SCO to go sue IBM and badmouth Linux, it wouldn't be very effective. Saying "we licensed SCO UNIX because we respect intellectual property" lets them both appear respectful of intellectual property and give money to SCO to act as their attack dog.

    However, I don't see anything that anti-trust regulators can do about that.

    What the open source community can try to do is deflect the PR impact back on Microsoft by making it crystal clear what a sleazy deal this really is. Than, rather than appearing law-abiding and respecting IP, Microsoft will come across as underhanded and deceitful.

    Of course, if anybody could leak the memo from inside Microsoft where this deal was discussed, that would help even more... any volunteers?
  • Re:How about OSX? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by budGibson (18631) on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:09AM (#5990588)
    Actually, the AT&T license covers System V only. BSD is a separate issue that was settled some time ago. The Apple kernel is a BSD derivative, so safe. Linux is a mix of BSD and System V, so a target of SCO.

    The funny thing is that Richard Shaheen, Microsoft's chief OS architect, is the one that invented the BSD Mach microkernel, the basis for OS X and Next before it.

    Basically, it was possible to do development on BSD because AT&T came to agreement some time ago with the academics who developed it, allowing them to keep the source. Before this agreement, there was actually disagreement and legal battles similar to what we are seeing today.

    Back when BSD forked, ownership of the trademark and intellectual property was murky. AT&T had basically been giving out the source, somewhat similar to SCO' recent practice, but not under the GPL. Since SCO released under the GPL, their claims do not seem very strong.
  • by PaddyM (45763) on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:12AM (#5990598) Homepage
    What if SCO took linux code and put it in their unix code and then said, "Look, linux stole our code". How can we prove that they didn't do this?
  • Nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sql*kitten (1359) on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:14AM (#5990607)
    The reason M$ has not been willing to show the windows code is that they have borrowed unix-code to the NT. Especially the network and memory handling routines come to mind first.

    Microsoft used BSD code, but the BSD license permits this. You can try this simple experiment on your own PC, assuming you have Cygwin:

    C:\WINNT\system32> strings FTP.EXE |grep -i copyright
    @(#) Copyright (c) 1983 The Regents of the University of California.


    Now why would Microsoft leave that in there if they were deliberately trying to hide it?
  • Re:How about OSX? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by avidday (671814) on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:14AM (#5990614)
    AT&T and USL basically indeminfied anything derived from the BSD 4.4-lite source tree as part of there settlement with the Regents of the Uninversity of California. Given OS X's NetBSD origins, it should be "cast iron" safe of this current madness
  • by standards (461431) on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:19AM (#5990625)
    OK, it's clear to me (and most analyists) that this SCO/Linux, Sco/Microsoft, SCO/IBM, SCO/Anything is just a sophisticated "marketing" scheme designed to fool everyone in order to capture headlines, money, and marketshare.

    I am convinced that SCO, failing to release any evidence what-so-ever of any claim, is merely attempting to manipulate the market. Microsoft, who admits to be fearful of Linux, is looking for anything to confuse potential Linux customers.

    NONE of this is news. SCO hasn't been able to show if there has been any violations, likely because there are none. Microsoft has not been able to specify which code they were in violation of, if any, or what code they "licensed".

    Therefore, I believe that SCO is just making this all up. I believe that Microsoft is helping them. I believe they are doing this because the executives at SCO want to make money by damaging the reputation of Linux. I believe it is in Microsoft's best interest to help them, because Microsoft's data center business is being bashed by Linux.

    My belief and speculation should be the headlines. I suggest
    "SCO's new illegitimate business model?"

    Because given all the previous "press releases" by SCO, it is is the most likely truth. Maybe I'm wrong... but just lok at the evidence provided so far.
  • Re:A Better Reason (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:26AM (#5990652)
    However, what they have to fear from SCO I can't imagine.

    What SCO wants is money.

    I'm sure there has been as much legal correspondence between SCO and Microsoft over the last few months as there has been between SCO and IBM.

    This is why Linux has nothing to fear from SCO.

    What SCO wants is not a victory in court, but to extort $1M-$50M, either in licenses or in out-of-court settlements. This means, go to the guys who actually have that kind of money to throw away: IBM and Microsoft. Definitely not Red Hat and friends.

    It's probably true that Microsoft doesn't have that much to fear in court. But they're still willing to pay at least a few million to avoid the mess of a fight in court.
  • Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said acquiring the license from SCO "is representative of Microsoft's ongoing commitment to respecting intellectual property and the IT community's healthy exchange of IP through licensing. This helps to ensure IP compliance across Microsoft solutions and supports our efforts around existing products like services for Unix that further Unix interoperability."

    Okay... didn't we already learn about M$ borrowing other people's technology and getting burned with the SQL Server and Timeline issue. [theregister.co.uk]

    I think this is a large case of Bill covering his butt. If SCO has the cajones to go after IBM, then they're building a warchest to go after him next. It's a smart move on M$ part, but it gives me the strange idea that I may be seeing some familiar "new" features in Longhorn. [winsupersite.com]

  • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:34AM (#5990681)
    Hold on cowboy, the US has recently established global precedent. Failure to abide by our views results in your being an "illegal" outlaw regime, and we don't allow those to remain. For reference: see Taliban in Afghanistan, Baath Party in Iraq for recent example, or the Emperor in Japan and the Nazi Gov't in Germany...

    You don't have to respect our culture, you may not respect our President, but you WILL respect our Aircraft Carriers. :)

    All kidding aside, Common Law Courts (49 states in the US, several countries in the EU I believe... I know that LA in the US is on the Roman/Latin system, as are Italy and France, and Britain is obviously on the Common Law system, but I forget who else is what) tend to defer to each other's precedents when possible (but only for rulings on Common Law)....

    However, a serious ruling in the US will affect ANYONE in the EU that does business in the US. In fact, business leaders and the movers and shakers (re: the 8 people in Europe that work over 35 hours/week :-) ) aren't going to dismiss the US courts because a bunch of college kids like to laugh at the US...

    Alex
  • by LinuxParanoid (64467) * on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:37AM (#5990698) Homepage Journal
    I believe Microsoft had a perpetual license to Xenix, which turned into SCO OpenServer in the mid-90s. I don't know if Microsoft had any license rights to the OpenServer upgrades.

    However, it appears that the license they are getting via this settlement is to SCO UnixWare (which was Novell UnixWare and before that AT&T SVR4). Which is a totally different kernel. Or at least much different.

    The UnixWare kernel is substantially more sophisticated than OpenServer, with very good SMP support, clustering support, support for many system items being hot-plug, etc.

    SCO tried for years to shift OpenServer customers to the UnixWare kernel, but backwards compatibility and comfort levels always made it a hard sell.

    Without its own Unix OS, Microsoft is not necessarily competing directly in the Unix space with SCO, although one could obviously argue that their interoperability tools for the last 4 years or so have competed.

    --LP
  • Re:MS Buys SCO... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by StormReaver (59959) on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:41AM (#5990716)
    "Linux apparently contains copyrighted Unix code. Therefore if MS buys SCO, MS owns Linux ;)"

    No, Linux doesn't appear to contain copyrighted Unix code. A baseless accusation from a sub-par vendor facing certain defeat in the marketplace does not a copyright breach make.

    I wouldn't be one bit surprised, though, to find out that SCO Unix contains copyrighted GPL code in breach of copyright law. After all, Linux has been much more powerful and capable than SCO Unix for a number of years. With all that higher quality GPL source code just laying around for the picking, I imagine the temptation at SCO was great.
  • by suds (6610) on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:42AM (#5990719) Homepage
    I now see the reason why RMS has always insisted on keeping Free Software *free* (as in spirit) and never let any corporate interests to hijack the development of Free Software. The whole *open source* thing brought greedy corporations into play and we are now seeing the results!!

    Where is RMS when we need him!?
  • by Asprin (545477) <gsarnold&yahoo,com> on Monday May 19, 2003 @08:43AM (#5990727) Homepage Journal

    Maybe, but don't be surprised if MS makes a few more of these "Licensing" payments a little further down the road. I think this is probably more about making sure SCO doesn't go out of bidness while they're twisting the knife. In short, Microsoft is funding the lawyers for the lawsuit because it will hurt Microsoft's competition. Remember, SCO *IS* 'financially troubled' so MS no doubt wants to make sure the air conditioning stays on.

    What troubles me is why doesn't Microsoft just buy SCO outright? Unless the lawsuit really is bogus and MS just wants to make sure SCO has the financial backing to cause as many headaches as possible before time runs out, it would seem to me that if they are going to make sure the gun gets used, they might as well own it so they can decide where and when the trigger gets pulled. Have you ever known Bill and Steve to **NOT** want absolute total control of everything?

  • MS code in Solaris (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bazman (4849) on Monday May 19, 2003 @09:02AM (#5990789) Journal
    This is some of /usr/bin/clear on a Solaris 2.8 machine:
    #!/usr/bin/sh
    # Copyright (c) 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 AT&T
    # All Rights Reserved

    # THIS IS UNPUBLISHED PROPRIETARY SOURCE CODE OF AT&T
    # The copyright notice above does not evidence any
    # actual or intended publication of such source code.

    #ident "@(#)clear.sh 1.8 96/10/14 SMI" /* SVr4.0 1.3 */
    # Copyright (c) 1987, 1988 Microsoft Corporation
    # All Rights Reserved

    # This Module contains Proprietary Information of Microsoft
    # Corporation and should be treated as Confidential.
    Strangely enough, /usr/bin/clear is essentially a one-line script using 'tput', and I cant see any other 'Microsoft' string in anything in /usr/bin.

    Baz

  • If open source suddenly became unviable for business users, Microsoft will have *everyone* else in the IT industry, including IBM, by the testicles (well, even more than they do now). IBM does not want to have Microsoft dictating terms to them into the never-never.

    Therefore, in this case, it seems to me to be in their clear interest to act in the interests of squashing this lawsuit completely.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2003 @09:44AM (#5990998)
    Ms needs to be careful where they get their code from. They are now dealing with a company that is more than likely infected with that there GPL virus thingy.

    Now, what if they start releasing some of this code in their key products. Then, what if they trial actually comes about. Then, what if there really is similar code between the two code bases. But, what if it ends up being proved in court that the code migrated from linux to SCO and not the other way around as SCO claims, and this similar code happens to be the code in the MS products. !!!???

    Then MS will have combined GPL code with the code for their key products and will have to GPL their key products! That would teach them for dealing with a copmany they hold to be virus infected.

    A Nony Mouse and loving it.

    Actually, when I first saw the news, I wondered if it was a way for MS to publically fund SCO's lawsuite against IBM and the rest.
  • by GodHand (114203) on Monday May 19, 2003 @10:03AM (#5991137)
    This is so obvious:

    SCO is taking shots at linux on its own (and in part Microsoft's) behalf. I would bet that SCO has been working a deal with Microsoft to get some code licensed that SCO has. Suddenly SCO realizes that some of the code microsoft wants is already out. Seeing this might cause a problem with how "edible" they look to microsoft they start hammering away at whoever they can (IBM) for infringement on those same rights previously.

    So in part, I think its that they wanted to look better for Microsoft, but I don't think it was a ploy to have someone buy them out necessarily.

    I'd assume that in the end this will be a gestapo tactic like someone mentioned earlier and also a strategy to kill off linux as competition.
  • Re:Simmer down now (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda@etoyo c . c om> on Monday May 19, 2003 @10:10AM (#5991178) Homepage Journal
    I'm told the Network stack for Windows 2000 was "largely based on" BSD's. However, BSD is free and clear of any IP claims. Novel largely LOST a similar "They stole my ideas suit" back in 1993. BSD yanked 3 files, and Novell was barred from any further litigation.

    It should be noted that Berkley was pondering a countersuit, claiming that Novel's code lifted large portions from BSD without copyrights or attributions.

  • Re:Not so fast (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mattdm (1931) on Monday May 19, 2003 @10:12AM (#5991190) Homepage
    I don't think it's actually a copyright claim, but a *trade secrets* claim. Which is an entirely different (and more scary, in some ways) branch of IP. Compared to copyright infringement, the potential penalties are huge.
  • Until now, there wasn't any such transaction; while this is not in any manner a proof that Microsoft is the power behind the curtain, it does, coupled with their past statements on Linux as being harmful to IP, make this appear more like one of their publicity stunts.


    I think you are right. Maybe you'll see some expensive Microsoft Unix tools or Windows tools that inter-operate with Unix but the big thing is the stunt SCO is pulling.

    SCO is telling IBM (by extention RedHat, Debian, Mandrake, SuSe[*], et. al.) that this is how things should be done and Microsoft gets a "double plus good" rating. They are saying this is what real companies do.

    On the screen it looks like flamebait or a troll, but it's just something that will not produce much (or?) but will try to get wider support for SCO's case. If Microsoft doesn't rip them off, then someone that would is evil!

    *So, where can I find a list of people that actually got letters. Consider some Linux distributers wanted to Unite... does SuSe ride the SCO wave with a pass on IP claims and become the UnitedLinux?

    Next week kids...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2003 @10:16AM (#5991205)
    What, exactly, have they licensed? I don't understand how one licenses something without being clear about what it is you are getting. The article says Microsoft is licensing SCO's Unix "patents and source code." If I wanted to fork over money to SCO for such a license wouldn't SCO have to disclose to me in some detail what I'm licensing? And shouldn't a licensee have a right to establish first that the code being licensed is actually controlled by the party claiming to own it, rather than something in the public domain, or already (legitimately) released under the GPL?

    Or is SCO's "licensing program" just a thinly veiled form of extortion:

    SCO: Something you are using belongs to us. We can't tell you what it is, but if you don't pay us for it we'll sue you."

    LINUX USERS: Ok. Here's the money. Now tell us what we've licensed!

    SCO: Sorry. Can't say. But consider yourself lucky.

    In a similar vein, if I wanted to make a good faith effort to market a distro purged of SCO's code, shouldn't SCO be compelled to tell me exactly what code I need to remove in order not to infringe on their IP?

    It is one thing for SCO to argue that IBM contributed code to the Linux kernel that belongs to SCO. If such a thing could be proven then I would think that SCO would be entitled to damages from IBM. But it is another thing to say that the entire community of Linux users owes something to SCO for code IBM stole from SCO and wrongly contributed to the kernel. As a Linux user, I had no way of knowing that parts of the Linux kernel belonged to SCO, nor can I bring my current Linux use into compliance with SCO's ip claims, since SCO refuses to disclose to me details about the offending code.

    (By the way, it is SCO's bizarre notion of the Linux community's collective "responsibility" for damage to SCO's IP that make "viral" gpl arguments so appealing. After all, if every Linux user is "responsible" for violations to SCO's ip, even if we have had no way of knowing such violations were occurring, then certainly Caldera's distribution of SCO's code under the gpl should function to annul SCO right to their source, even though Caldera "didn't know" they were GPL'ing proprietary code.)

    Lurking behind all of this are some troubling legitimate questions. For example, is the kernel development process adequate to the task of screening out contributions to the kernel that violate someone's intellectual property? Do Linus Torvalds and those working with him on kernel development have a responsibility to vet code for ip violations? Is such a thing possible or practical? If someone used the kernel development process to deliberately damage another company or individual's ip, would all legal responsibility for this damage lie with the individual making the illegitimate contribution, or is there some way in which the kernel developer's would also be liable?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2003 @10:20AM (#5991226)

    I would be willing to bet there is quite a bit of Unix code in Windows. How else could you explain the gradual increased steadiness over the past 5 years. Whether you want to admit it or not, Windows 2000 was a major jump in reliability over previous releases and XP edged out 2K slightly.

    So you're saying that the only way to write a stable OS is with UNIX? Do you have any idea how absurd that is?

    I'm guessing that the reason XP is so much more stable is because you used to use 98, which was a hacked-up version of MSDOS because MS and IBM never finished "their" OS/2, and so it took until 2001 for MS to finally get a stable second generation operating system (gradually adding Win98-like features to NT).

  • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Monday May 19, 2003 @10:34AM (#5991299) Homepage
    I would agree, except that I don't see the end of this case being years off. SCO has stated a deadline by which they want IBM to buy them out -- June 13 -- or face having their Unix license for AIX revoked.

    IBM signed its license agreement with AT&T long ago. There is nothing SCO can do to revoke it.

    SCO can say that they can revoke it but they simply don't have that power. IBM on the other hand DO have the power to tell Caldera 'sit on it and spin'.

    This is nothing more than the death throes of a company looking to get bought out.

    Selling the patent license to Microsoft is kinda cute, Microsoft probably didn't have to pay too much and there is probably some piece of SCO technology somewhere that would allow a claim to be made they infringed. SCO could not make the claim because Microsoft can say the same of them. If however SCO is liquidated the patents could be bought by a private patent-extortion outfit.

  • Re:Not so fast (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2003 @11:10AM (#5991485)
    Trade secret law could indeed mean massive damages - but can't affect end-users. Damages can be sought for the release of a trade secret, but once it's out, it's out - trade-secret is not copyright, and does not transfer to third parties.
  • by shades66 (571498) on Monday May 19, 2003 @11:29AM (#5991601)
    Why?

    As soon as this court case gets going any code they show as being part of their IP will be replaced within weeks (I think that the likes of IBM/REDHAT/SUSE/MANDRAKE/LINUS T. etc... will all team together to do this as fast as possible!). And because of this I don't think that MS will "buy" (Not licence as they have done so far according to the topic header) SCO's IP as the minute the Linux comunity removes this IP the licence will not be worth anything to MS.. Unless they already have some of that IP in windows and/or They intend on using some of that IP..

    Only time will tell but I think it is going to be an interesting fight!

    Mark.
  • by Ogerman (136333) on Monday May 19, 2003 @11:45AM (#5991692)
    Of course, if anybody could leak the memo from inside Microsoft where this deal was discussed, that would help even more... any volunteers?

    See "Halloween document #7"
    http://www.opensource.org/halloween/halloween 7.php

    "Linux patent violations/risk of being sued" struck a chord with US and Swedish respondents. Seventy-four percent (74%) of Americans and 82% of Swedes stated that the risk of being sued over Linux patent violations made them feel less favorable towards Linux. This was the only message that had a strong impact with any audience.

    and..

    "The discussion of IP rights needs to be tied to concrete actions."

    This is pretty solid evidence that M$ is interested in being involved in a legal FUD campaign. Now, indeed, if only the specific internal memos for this particular case could be leaked!
  • by Znork (31774) on Monday May 19, 2003 @12:09PM (#5991847)
    The GPL has not been tested in court yet because in the cases where enforcement has been needed the corporate lawyers involved have folded before it even got to court.

    The GPL is as close to legally airtight as you can get, because it does not revoke any rights you have, it grants you rights you dont have. If you 'win' a case against the GPL, the best scenario you get is it defaults to standard copyright, in which case you have no rights at all. The GPL wasnt written by a bunch of geeks, it was written by a bunch of geeks and their lawyers.

    EULA's are an entirely different beast, since they actually revoke rights you ordinarily do have. If you get those provisions stricken by the court you gain something. A whole lot more productive than going up against the GPL and losing as much if you win as if you lose.

    In the SCO case the license is beside the point. It could be proprietary, GPL, BSD or anything else. Since they were still distributing the code under that license after knowing it allegedly contained their own proprietary code, that is rather damaging to their claim about harm being caused. In the best case we'll get a decision that whatever SCO distributed the code under is a valid license. Or the SCO code might have to be removed if the court considers it an understandable mistake on SCO's part, but as they've distributed it themselves it would be rather difficult to point fingers and argue that anyone else has been distributing the same code in bad faith.

    Of course, if IBM violated an NDA on the code in the first place, that hardly helps IBM. It's really two different cases; wether IBM violated an NDA, and wether this affects Linux in any way at all.

    Personally, I rather doubt any SCO code is in Linux. My experience with SCO suggests that SCO had nothing anyone would want in Linux, and frankly, if they've found any uncanny similarities, I think it's far more likely that someone at SCO has been cut'n'pasting from Linux into SCO's products. They've had loads of more opportunity and IMO far more motive.

    The amounts of egg in SCO's face if that is discovered would be a fun sight to see.

    Of course, IANAL, etc.
  • Licensing the code also allows Microsoft to do with it what others can't: Make changes and keep them secret.

    It let's them take a piece of Linux and incorporate it into their own products, without releasing their source code.

    I can't imagine it as being a very large piece of Linux, though, given that the kernel has so many contributors.
  • by Anonym0us Cow Herd (231084) on Monday May 19, 2003 @12:54PM (#5992217)
    If open source suddenly became unviable for business users, Microsoft will have *everyone* else in the IT industry, including IBM, by the testicles

    Um... remember IBM would have settled. They would be free and clear to continue to use Linux to improve the competitive advantage of their server products.

    It would only be everyone else who would have to either (1) stop using Linux, or (2) buy IBM, or (3) buy from some other vendor who has settled, or (4) settle themselves. Everyone else would be free to enter into friendly negotiations with Microsoft. I'm sure, just like Licensing 6.0, you pay your fee, and you are fully licensed. Make sure you agree to allow audits.
  • by siskbc (598067) on Monday May 19, 2003 @01:04PM (#5992307) Homepage
    The GPL is as close to legally airtight as you can get, because it does not revoke any rights you have, it grants you rights you dont have. If you 'win' a case against the GPL, the best scenario you get is it defaults to standard copyright, in which case you have no rights at all. The GPL wasnt written by a bunch of geeks, it was written by a bunch of geeks and their lawyers.

    EULA's are an entirely different beast, since they actually revoke rights you ordinarily do have. If you get those provisions stricken by the court you gain something. A whole lot more productive than going up against the GPL and losing as much if you win as if you lose.

    I know that's the mantra according to Stallman, but ask somebody not affiliated with OSS and you get a slightly different perspective. As for the "one assigns rights, one takes them away" argument, it depends on your point of view and has no relevance as far as I am aware in court. And as far as "legally airtight," well...that's almost an oxymoron. There have been a lot of airtight pre-nups that got shredded.

    In the SCO case the license is beside the point. It could be proprietary, GPL, BSD or anything else. Since they were still distributing the code under that license after knowing it allegedly contained their own proprietary code, that is rather damaging to their claim about harm being caused.

    That holds *maybe* for a copyright argument, but not at all for a trade secret argument. Trade secret was harmed when IBM supposedly shared the code with outside parties - when SCO released it, the cat was already out of the bag. They can still claim damages. The timeline is important here. Even with copyright, they can probably go after damages that occurred before they released their linux distro, even if it's only a few months, assuming the GPL holds. Also, did they really keep putting their linux distro out after "discovering" tainted code? That's pretty dumb...do you have a link, because I'd love to check it out (I'm not calling you out, I'm legitimately interested!)

    Personally, I rather doubt any SCO code is in Linux. My experience with SCO suggests that SCO had nothing anyone would want in Linux, and frankly, if they've found any uncanny similarities, I think it's far more likely that someone at SCO has been cut'n'pasting from Linux into SCO's products. They've had loads of more opportunity and IMO far more motive.

    Well, yeah, that's my assumption as well. But it doesn't help that niggling fear that some lazy linux contributor tainted by AIX code dropped a few lines in. But yeah, I doubt it. More likely is they don't even know how to manage their own source code.

  • by GigsVT (208848) * on Monday May 19, 2003 @01:13PM (#5992383) Journal
    Microsoft only buys stuff that has value to it,

    I'd say the FUD value of SCO's current tack is pretty valuable to MS.

    and even then it only buys when there's no alternative.

    I completely disagree with this. MS doesn't have to license the technology to kill the company, they could just reimplement it and bundle it without buying the company (assuming there are no patents involved). It's a less attractive alternative when you have billions in the bank, but it is an alternative.
  • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday May 19, 2003 @02:05PM (#5992822) Homepage
    SCO can only license what it owns.

    If SCO passed on stolen property, then Microsoft may very well have some GPL code lurking about it's OS. They could suddenly lose all rights to distribute various versions of their product.

    They might also be on the hook for all of the source.
  • by Webmonger (24302) on Monday May 19, 2003 @02:15PM (#5992886) Homepage
    When a copyright is jointly held, all the copyright holders must agree to any distribution, and I believe any one of them can sue for illegal distribution.
  • by kardar (636122) on Monday May 19, 2003 @02:22PM (#5992929)

    I would imagine that Microsoft, and others, might try to get around the GPL by basing their decision on SCO's claims - in other words - if SCO claims a certain part of Linux violates their IP rights, then that would be a part that Microsoft (and others that license the UNIX code) could use without having to GPL it. So even if IBM wins the court case, now it would be the GPL vs Microsoft (and the others who might be into this kind of thing); if the court case drags on long enough before any decision is reached, those large corporations that are licensing UNIX from SCO might incorporate those parts of Linux that are in question without the GPL in an effort to "comply with the IP rights". This whole thing is bad for GPL.

    I had a thought earlier today that maybe we will have two Linuxes - just like there is UNIX and BSD - I wonder if it would evolve to a point where there would be the UNIX Linux and then the GPL Linux. No doubt there are people that like Linux but hate the GPL. I am beginning to wonder if this is what this whole thing is about.

  • Re:A Better Reason (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IntlHarvester (11985) on Monday May 19, 2003 @02:33PM (#5992997) Journal
    Ballmer: Does this SCO thing affect us?

    Henchman: Uhhh, we have 2 Linux Counterstrike servers, and one news server with the local alt.binaries feed.

    Ballmer: YESSS!!! Cut a $300 check to SCO and issue a press release!

    It's very unlikely that MS is funneling money back their bitter enemy Ray Noorda and SCO. However, you can bet it is on the very top of the talking point list for their salesmen: "Well, Microsoft had to pay this SCO licence, so you better watch out if you put Linux in."
  • two questions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cens0r (655208) on Monday May 19, 2003 @05:06PM (#5994124) Homepage
    First, since this is a trade secret case we will never know what the code that SCO claims is stolen is, unless it is established in court that it is not a trade secret. My question is then if the court does up hold that the code is a stolen trade secret, what does linux do? SCO can't tell them what code to take out, because that would reveal their trade secret. Since linux is open source even if all the developers signed NDA's, a quick grep would show what code was removed and violate the trade secret. So, in the sort of situation what happens? Second question. Lets say SCO did the smart thing here (I know it's a stretch, but lets pretend). They completly isolate their unix and linux groups. They know if any of their unix code ends up in linux they loose the copyright. They assume IBM does the same thing. IBM puts some of the unix code into linux. How is SCO supposed to know this? Their linux team doesn't know what the unix source looks like. This is the kind of dilemna that might start scarring people away from linux.
  • by Keeper (56691) on Monday May 19, 2003 @07:45PM (#5995157)
    For comparison, Microsoft spends $8m anually on soda for it's employees...

Economists state their GNP growth projections to the nearest tenth of a percentage point to prove they have a sense of humor. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

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