SCO did not content itself with threatening the "long-term survivability of
Linux" after Red Hat filed suit. The following day, the company announced
its latest product: an "intellectual property license for Linux" (license text here
). Why, one
might ask? From the SCO License
Customers have come to SCO asking what they can do to respect and
help protect the rights of the SCO intellectual property in
Linux. SCO has created the Intellectual Property License for Linux
in response to these customer needs.
It is encouraging that SCO is such a concerned, customer-oriented company.
In fact, the company is even kind enough to offer a special "promotional"
pricing arrangement for those who buy their licenses before October.
Prices vary; a "desktop" license is $199, for a single-CPU server it's
$699; for eight processors it goes up to $4999. Embedded devices get a
special $32 price - but that's still enough to hurt when added to your
wireless access point or video recorder.
After the promotional period ends, prices will double.
Of course, certain questions come to mind. Questions like "why the hell
should I pay off a company to use my nicely GPL-licensed software when that
company refuses to show me any proof that it has any claim on said
software?" Strangely enough, this question does not appear in the SCO
For what it's worth, even the Gartner Group has
been quoted as
recommending that potential licensees not bother until the Red Hat suit
SCO, perhaps, thinks it is sitting on some sort of gold mine. All it
has to do is make a tax on every Linux installation stick, and enough gold
will flow to Utah to fill Canyonlands. There's only one little
problem: if it were ever to become clear that Linux users actually had to
pay this tax, all distribution of Linux would have to immediately stop.
Distribution of a non-free Linux kernel would be a clear GPL violation, and
there is little doubt
that some holders of Linux copyrights would sue, if necessary, to prevent
their code from being distributed as part of a proprietary product. Even
SCO acknowledges this fact in its FAQ:
The IP License for Linux does not grant distribution rights, nor
does it grant any rights associated with source code. SCO
doesn't offer a license to cure the infringement on the part
of the Linux distributor because SCO's source license
agreement directly conflicts with the GPL.
So, if SCO somehow makes its license stick, it kills the whole game. Linux
distribution would cease, and companies, seeing no future in Linux, would
switch to something else rather than pay exorbitant fees for a dead-end
system. Given that scenario, it is hard to come up with reasons why SCO
would attempt this licensing program in the first place. With the
application of sufficient imagination, however, a few possibilities can be
- The purpose of the licensing program may just be to attract attention
and, with luck, a bit of short-term cash. Perhaps it is not expected
to last very long.
- Perhaps SCO thinks that the momentum and installed base of Linux are
big enough that a way around the GPL problems would have to be found.
- Or, perhaps, the death of Linux is the real goal.
In the short term, however, it's a fairly safe prediction that this
licensing program will not go very far. Most users are far from convinced
by SCO's claims, to say the least. And SCO has very limited resources to
direct toward new legal battles; the company is, after all, fighting two
high-profile cases already. Of course, if you are concerned about
the issue, you should get your advice from a lawyer, not from web
publications like LWN.
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