SCO has put its complaint
on the web for all to see. It makes interesting reading
for those who are interested in this case, or in possible challenges to
Linux in general. What follows is a quick summary of SCO's claims.
The first half of the complaint is dedicated to establishing SCO's claim to
the Unix tradmark and source code. There is also some talk of the
licensing agreements for that source, and SCO's wisdom in building a
version of Unix for Intel processors. Unix, they say, is a great thing:
The recent rise of the global technology economy has been powered
in large part by UNIX. Virtually every mission critical financial
application in the world is powered by UNIX, including electronic
transfers of funds. Real time stock trades are powered by UNIX.
Inventory controls and distributions are powered by UNIX. All
major power grids and all major telecommunications systems are
powered by UNIX. Many satellite control and defense control
systems are powered by UNIX. Virtually every large corporation in
the world currently operates part or all of its information
technology systems on a UNIX operating system.
Paragraph 74 turns the topic to Linux. Here's what SCO thinks of the operating
system it sells:
A new operating system derived from and based on UNIX recently has
become popular among computer enthusiasts for use on personal,
educational-based, and not-for-profit projects and initiatives.
This operating system is named Linux.
SCO, back when it was Caldera, used to think that Linux was good for a bit
more than that. Note also the claim that Linux is "derived from and based
The core of SCO's claim seems to be that Linux could not possibly have
gotten to where it is now without some sort of divine assistance.
Consider points 82 and 83:
Linux started as a hobby project of a 19-year old student. Linux
has evolved through bits and pieces of various contributions by
numerous software developers using single processor computers.
Virtually none of these software developers and hobbyists had
access to enterprise-scale equipment and testing facilities for
Linux development. Without access to such equipment, facilities,
sophisticated methods, concepts and coordinated know-how, it would
be difficult or impossible for the Linux development community to
create a grade of Linux adequate for enterprise use.
As long as the Linux development process remained uncoordinated
and random, it posed little or no threat to SCO, or to other UNIX
This is an interesting claim. According to SCO, something came
along which radically changed the nature of Linux development. Given the
highly public nature of the Linux development process, it should be
possible to put a finger on the point where that process was no longer
"uncoordinated and random." SCO, of course, does not mark that point in
Of course, development of many of the "enterprise-quality" features of
Linux, including its top-of-the-line network stack and SMP support,
happened during the "uncoordinated and random" period before IBM set us all
Just to drive SCO's point home:
Prior to IBM's involvement, Linux was the software equivalent of a
bicycle. UNIX was the software equivalent of a luxury car. To
make Linux of necessary quality for use by enterprise customers,
it must be re-designed so that Linux also becomes the software
equivalent of a luxury car. This re-design is not technologically
feasible or even possible at the enterprise level without (1) a
high degree of design coordination, (2) access to expensive and
sophisticated design and testing equipment; (3) access to UNIX
code, methods and concepts; (4) UNIX architectural experience; and
(5) a very significant financial investment.
Let's look at all of these points. Regarding the first one: people watching
the Linux kernel
development process should be forgiven if they have a hard time finding the
"high degree of design coordination" claimed here. Remember how Linus sees this
But I _am_ claiming that there is no common goal, and that most
development ends up being done for fairly random reasons - one
persons particular interest or similar.
It's "directed mutation" on a microscopic level, but there is very
little macroscopic direction. There are lots of individuals with
some generic feeling about where they want to take the system (and
I'm obviously one of them), but in the end we're all a bunch of
people with not very good vision.
And that is GOOD.
Point (2) alleges access to fancy equipment. The first four-processor
Linux demonstration was put together by the company then known as VA
Research. IBM has since provided some nice boxes to its developers
(leading to fun things like 7.5 second kernel
compiles). But one might well ask when it became a crime to give your
developers access to high-end hardware.
The third point claims that Linux could not have gotten to where it is
without access to the Unix source, along with "methods and concepts." The
methods and concepts have been well documented in the open literature for
decades. Access to the source remains an unproven claim; SCO has not
pointed out a single line of code which, it claims, is derived from the
Unix source. One would assume that will change during the trial phase, if
this case gets that far.
Point (4) claims that Unix architectural experience would be required.
Again, this point has not been proved, but it is worth mentioning that the
architecture of Unix has, once again, been well documented for decades.
The availability of free versions of Unix (i.e. the BSD variants) could
also be a legitimate source of Unix architectural experience.
Point (5) claims a "significant financial investment." That investment has
certainly been made - by countless hackers who have donated their time, by
many companies hoping to make a business with Linux, and by a substantial
number of dotcom investors who, perhaps, don't feel quite so good about the
whole thing at this point. And, yes, also IBM. But IBM's investment,
massive though it is, is still a small piece of the total resources that
have gone into the development of a free operating system over almost two
Paragraph 86 summarizes SCO's position:
It is not possible for Linux to rapidly reach UNIX performance
standards for complete enterprise functionality without the
misappropriation of UNIX code, methods or concepts to achieve such
performance, and coordination by a larger developer, such as IBM.
The compaint then turns to how SCO has suffered by IBM's actions. From
The acts and conduct of IBM in misappropriating and encouraging,
inducing and causing others to commit material misappropriation of
SCO's Trade Secrets are the direct and proximate cause of a
near-complete devaluation and destruction of the market value of
SCO OpenServer and SCO UnixWare that would not have otherwise
occurred but for the conduct of IBM.
In other words, had IBM not wandered into Linux, SCO's products would still
be doing fine in the marketplace. Right.
The claims seem to be saying that SCO was somehow entitled to the right to
exploit the market offered by increasingly powerful commodity computers.
Thus SCO complains:
As Intel-based processors have now become the processing platform
of choice for a rapidly-increasing customer base of enterprise
software users, plaintiff has been deprived of the opportunity to
fairly exploit its market-leading position for UNIX on Intel-based
processors, which revenue opportunity would have been very
substantial on a recurring, annual basis but for IBM's unfairly
An alternative point of view, of course, is that SCO was never entitled to
this market, and was well on its way toward losing it before IBM discovered
Another thing that IBM has done:
IBM, directly and through its Linux distribution partners, has
intentionally and without justification induced SCO's customers
and licensees to breach their corporate licensing agreements,
including but not limited to, inducing the customers to reverse
engineer, decompile, translate, create derivative works, modify or
otherwise use the UNIX software in ways in violation of the
license agreements. These customers include Sherwin Williams,
Papa John's Pizza, and Auto Zone, among others. The licensees
include Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu, NEC and Toshiba, among others.
IBM is thus responsible for the Great Papa John's Pizza Caper. It's worth
noting the reference to "its Linux distribution partners." These are
listed as being Red Hat, SuSE, and others earlier in the document. It
could be that this suit will expand beyond IBM at some point.
Here's what SCO wants:
As a result of IBM's unfair competition and the marketplace injury
sustained by plaintiff as set forth above, plaintiff has suffered
damages in an amount to be proven at trial, but no less than $1
billion, together with additional damages through and after the
time of trial foreseeably and consequentially resulting from IBM's
unfair competition in an amount to be proven at the time of trial.
The $1 billion figure, thus, is a minimum amount; they really would like to
There's a lot more to be said about this suit, of course. The speculation
that SCO's real goal is to be acquired may have a certain amount of merit.
The legal implications of the fact that SCO, itself, has distributed the
code in question under the GPL could prove to be most interesting. All of
this will become clearer over time.
But there is something here that the Linux development community should not
miss: SCO has shown the extent of its contempt for you. Without IBM as
fairy godmother, says SCO, you could never have achieved what you have
achieved with Linux. That is an insult of the highest order - the
worldwide free software development community has been slandered in a big
way. Whatever happens with this case, we should not forget what this
company thinks of us.
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