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SCO invokes RIAA in Linux jihad

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SCO has warned Linux users that they might be liable if they continue to use the open source operating system. It also suspended its own Linux business. Open Source community leader Bruce Perens described the actions as "rabid".

In March, SCO sued IBM for $1 billion damages claiming that Big Blue had violated SCO's 'intellectual property' by incorporating AIX code into Linux , devaluing SCO's proprietary UNIX, UnixWare. Yesterday SCO withdrew its own Linux and identified itself with the thuggery of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), an association unlikely to win SCO many friends:

"Similar to analogous efforts underway in the music industry, we are prepared to take all actions necessary [our emphasis] to stop the ongoing violation of our intellectual property or other rights."

But SCO has cut its own investment in its intellectual property by almost half. It spent $3.748 million on R&D in the quarter ending October 2002, compared to $6.662 million for the quarter ending July 2001.

SCO has been in business since 1979, but earned its spurs by nursing along Unix on x86 after Microsoft lost interest in XENIX™ and merged with Linux distributor Caldera three years ago. While SCO's cash cow has been OpenServer, it picked up the rights to UNIX (although the UNIX™ trademark belongs to The OpenGroup).

Perhaps realizing, somewhat belatedly, that its lawsuit had set its own tail on fire, SCO today also suspended shipments of its own Linux distribution, Caldera OpenLinux.

SCO has been reluctant to provide specific examples of 'theft' it alleges.

Bruce Perens sees little chance of SCO cashing in on the case if it's successful, as it promoted its own Linux distributions for so long:

"It's history that can't be erased. They've foregone any royalty because they promised that their distributions would be without a royalty. So there's no royalty upside," he told us.

Last month Gartner's George Weiss described SCO's action as an exit strategy intended to bait IBM into buying out the litigant:

"SCO's lawsuit can be construed as an attempt to raise shareholder value through claims of intellectual-property infringement or to pressure IBM into an acquisition. If the SCO lawsuit is not upheld, the SCO installed base would face a potentially weakened SCO and should then plan for migration from OpenServer and UnixWare within the next five years," he wrote.

Darl McBride defended the case with a statement straight out of the Craig Mundie textbook:

"SCO's actions may prove unpopular with those who wish to advance or otherwise benefit from Linux as a free software system for use in enterprise applications," wrote SCO CEO McBride. "However, our property and contract rights are important and valuable; not only to us, but to every individual and every company whose livelihood depends on the continued viability of intellectual and intangible property rights in a digital age."

In all, it's as bizarre as any story we've covered this year, including this one.

We have to wonder what our old friend, and current SCO director, Ed Iacobucci makes of all this nonsense. ®

Related Link

SCO's case

Related Story

SCO sues IBM for $1 billion for 'devaluing Unix

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