We were planning to keep SCO off the front page this week. Really. But no
This week's fun centers around a press release issued by Novell. But first
some background: SCO,
recall, has been trumpeting its
ownership rights in the Unix source and patents for some time. The main "SCOsource" page states:
SCO is the owner of the UNIX Operating System Intellectual Property
that dates all the way back 1969, when the UNIX System was created
at Bell Laboratories. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions,
SCO has acquired ownership of the patents, copyrights and core
technology associated with the UNIX System.
The patent claim was effectively debunked
by Don Marti back in March, but the ownership claim has gotten an easier
ride. Until now. Novell, the company which obtained Unix from ATT, has
press release taking issue with SCO's claims. In particular, Novell is
asserting that it still owns the copyrights on the Unix code base:
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.
We believe it unlikely that SCO can demonstrate that it has any
ownership interest whatsoever in those copyrights. Apparently, you [SCO]
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.
Novell's claim notwithstanding, SCO has been quoted
reiterating its claim to the Unix copyright (and threatening to sue Linus
Torvalds for patent infringement as well). But SCO's
annual report, as filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange
Commission, includes an interesting disclosure:
The Company has an arrangement with Novell, Inc. ("Novell") in
which it acts as an administrative agent in the collection of
royalties for customers who deploy SVRx technology. Under the
agency agreement, the Company collects all customer payments and
remits 95 percent of the collected funds to Novell and retains 5
percent as an administrative fee.
SCO, it would seem, is not the copyright owner; it is simply the paperwork
shuffler, working for a 5% cut. That is not quite the picture that the
company has been trying to present.
Whether this turn of events weakens SCO's case against IBM remains to be
seen. SCO rushed out a
response stating that it doesn't matter:
SCO's lawsuit against IBM does not involve patents or copyrights.
SCO's complaint specifically alleges breach of contract, and SCO
intends to protect and enforce all of the contracts that the
company has with more than 6,000 licensees.
In fact, the original
complaint does talk mostly about trade secrets and breach of contract. It
does also, however, assert (once again) ownership of Unix and claim that IBM's actions
have caused a reduction in the value of its Unix assets. Novell's claim
challenges SCO's standing in the case; it may also be used by IBM's lawyers
to question SCO's truthfulness and good faith in general.
Regardless of how the IBM suit goes, however, it now seems clearer than
ever that the 1500 or so recipients of SCO's "Letter
to Linux customers" can simply file that letter next to their AOL
disks. SCO's case is not about patents or copyrights; the company has no
standing to go after random Linux users. This letter was pure FUD and
Novell does not stop with its copyright assertion. The company's
press release challenges SCO to produce its evidence, and hints at legal
moves to come:
SCO's actions are disrupting business relations that might
otherwise form at a critical time among partners around Linux
technologies, and are depriving these partners of important
economic opportunities. We hope you understand the potential
significant legal liability SCO faces for the possible harm it is
causing to countless customers, developers, and other Linux
It is also interesting to note that LinuxTag's lawyers have given
notice to SCO Group GmbH that SCO must cease its "unfair competitive
practices" as embodied in its attacks against Linux.
If SCO can't produce some convincing evidence for its claims soon, it may
well find itself dealing with lawsuits from the other side of the
to post comments)