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SCO says it's time for Linux users to pay up

You're so very tainted

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SCO is giving the "tainted" Linux users out there a way to clean up their filthy ways via a licensing program that will begin in the coming weeks.

After dolling out threats of legal action, SCO has called on enterprise Linux users to come forward and pay for code the company claims to own. The legal zealots at SCO reckon Linux has grown up too fast by nicking technology such as support for large SMP systems from its copyrighted Unix code. SCO plans to start calling Linux customers this week, asking them to pay up or face the consequences.

"Following the distribution of our letter to the Fortune 1000 and Global 500, many prominent companies using Linux contacted SCO to ask, 'What do you want me to do?'," said Darl McBride, president and CEO, The SCO Group, in a statement. "Today, we're delivering a very clear message to customers regarding what they should do."

Well, it's not all that clear of a message. SCO says the pricing terms for a license will not be announced for weeks. The suspense continues.

SCO's sudden burst of courage comes after it received U.S. copyright registrations for Unix System V source code. The company had been waiting to make sure all its legal bits and pieces were in proper order before kicking off its Linux licensing business.

IBM has been SCO's main target up to this point, but now the company wants to attack all the dirty, open source users out there.

"Today, we're stating that the alleged actions of IBM and others have caused customers to use a tainted product at SCO's expense," McBride said. "With more than 2.4 million Linux servers running our software, and thousands more running Linux every day, we expect SCO to be compensated for the benefits realized by tens of thousands of customers. Though we possess broad legal rights, we plan to use these carefully and judiciously."

Doesn't that put your mind at ease?

After making "no contribution" to the 2.2 Linux kernel, large vendors began dumping hundreds of Unix files into the OS in the 2.4 and upcoming 2.6 Linux kernels, according to SCO. This code has made it possible for Linux to run well not just on the two processor servers where it got its start but on eight, 16, 32 and 64-way boxes.

SCO is demanding that enterprise users pay for this SMP technology, but why?

There are but a few Intel-based boxes that size in existence, and IBM, the main target of SCO, does not even scale to 64 processors as of yet. Linux is most often found on small systems or on clusters of servers. The number of customers benefiting from this Unix code is quite slim.

Still, Linux customers of all shapes and sizes are to pay for all the bells and whistles in the code. SCO says home users and small-time players aren't on its immediate legal horizon, but contaminated corporate users need to fess up.

"We have a solution here that gets you clean," McBride said, in a conference call.

SCO suggests that the dirtiest players of all are companies such as IBM and Red Hat that let users purchase Linux without providing an OS warranty. SCO continues to put pressure on IBM to help its customer base out and take on the Linux IP costs.

SCO also added a little pressure to Linus Torvalds. Up to this point, SCO has been attacking IBM on contractual issues which left Torvalds out of the fray. With the new copyright claims, however, SCO says Torvalds may come under attack.

"As of today, it is a different game," McBride said. "We are not saying Linus created the problems, but he inherited them."

SCO claims it has a well thought out plan for licensing the Unix IP but remains reluctant to provide any details on the costs a business may face. The lack of information here leaves a nasty air of intrigue hanging over the matter, and we think SCO should speak up sooner rather than later. ®

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SCO pulls AIX licence, calls for permanent ban
SCO's Second Amendment rebuffs Novell Unix claim
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