14 January 2004 SCO Group, the small software company that is seeking licence fees from users of the Linux operating system, could widen the scope of its campaign by suing users of the SuSE Linux and NetWare operating systems, it emerged yesterday.
Chris Sontag, general manager of SCO’s Unix intellectual property licensing arm, SCOsource, told Infoconomy that Novell’s November 2003 purchase of SuSE, the world’s second biggest distributor of Linux, contravenes a non-compete agreement between SCO and Novell concluded at the same time that Novell sold its Unix interests to SCO in late 1995.
In return for a limited license to use all the Unix technology that it was divesting, Novell agreed not to compete directly against SCO, says Sontag.
The Unix technology might, for example, be used in Novell’s NetWare network operating system, then its flagship software product, Sontag suggested. “I don’t think that anyone could make an argument that SuSE Linux is not competitive with our core product offerings,” he said.
Sontag was uncommitted about whether SCO would take legal action against Novell, but hinted that it may bypass Novell and take action directly against users instead. “There’s all sorts of games in play… we may re-affirm our copyrights directly at an end-user level,” he said.
The 1995 transaction is also at the centre of a row over the ownership of Unix copyrights.
Documents published on Novell’s web site this week indicate that the copyrights belong to Novell and not SCO. But Sontag claimed that this was the result of a misplaced comma in a crucial line in the original transfer of ownership document, a mistake which was cleared up a year later.
“There was a second agreement between SCO and Novell, a year after the original contract, which everybody forgot about. That clarified that one line that was misdrafted… There is no question that contractually we have all the copyrights for Unix and UnixWare,” he said.