15 May 2003 SCO Group, owner of the intellectual property of the Unix operating system, has sent a letter to 1,500 of the world’s largest companies warning them that if they use Linux, the open source operating system, they could be breaking the law.
SCO has been aggressively attacking the legality of Linux ever since it filed a $1billion lawsuit against systems giant IBM in March, alleging that IBM had misappropriated its Unix intellectual property and used it to enhance Linux.
In early May, SCO further claimed that an investigation of the source code of Linux, carried out as part of an evidence gathering exercise for the IBM lawsuit, revealed that whole lines from its Unix source code have been copied into the heart of Linux. If proven, that could open the door for SCO to sue a broad range of Linux distributors.
In the letter to the global corporations, which include the Fortune 500 and most of the Global 2000, SCO claimed, “we believe that Linux infringes on our Unix intellectual property and other rights… We intend to aggressively protect and enforce these rights. Legal liability that may arise from the Linux development process may also rest with the end user.”
Commenting on the move, Chris Sontag of SCO said, “we think it is appropriate that we warn commercial companies that there are intellectual property issues with Linux?. However, few expect SCO to follow through and pursue action against any users. Instead, the move is being interpreted as an attempt to get corporations to abandon Linux, which could lead to more sales of SCO products.
However, most analysts believe that the primary reason for SCO’s actions during the past two months is that the company wants to be acquired — with IBM the most likely suitor. The more of a nuisance the company makes itself, believe analysts, the more likely that becomes.