SCO terminates IBM’s AIX licence


17 June 2003 SCO Group, the owner of the Unix System V operating system, has terminated IBM’s right to distribute the System V-based IBM AIX Unix operating system, leaving AIX customers unsure of their legal right to use or receive updates to the code.

In a three month long dispute, SCO claims that IBM had breached its licensing agreement by contributing sections of the AIX source code to the Linux open source operating system. A 100 day deadline SCO had provided for IBM to address the issue passed yesterday.

SCO acquired the intellectual property rights to Unix System V from Novell in 1995, which had earlier bought the ownership from its original developer AT&T. Most major mid-range systems implementations of Unix are still derivatives of System V.

SCO’s claim against IBM rests on the interpretation of a 1985 licence agreement through which IBM acquired a copy of the System V source code that AIX is based on. However, by allegedly submitting lines of AIX direct to the Linux operating system, IBM – and indeed its customers – are in breach of that agreement, SCO says.

“Through contributing AIX source code to Linux and using Unix methods to accelerate and improve Linux as a free operating systems, with the resulting destruction of Unix, IBM has clearly demonstrated its misuse of the Unix source code and has violated the terms of its contract with SCO,” says SCO’s lawyers.

They suggest the implications for customers of AIX are serious: “{From] today AIX is an unauthorised derivative of the Unix System V operating system source code and its users are, as of this date, using AIX without a valid basis to do so.”

Several analysts have been shown areas of overlap between the two source codes by SCO. However, they have so far only identified 80 lines that are identical, making any breach look minimal.

For its part, IBM is keeping quiet, even as SCO yesterday filed a permanent injunction requiring IBM to cease and desist from all use and distribution of AIX and to destroy or return all copies of the Unix System V source code.

SCO is seeking multi-million dollar damages.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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