The SCO lawsuit…

The SCO lawsuit…

… gets curiouser and curiouser. Initially, I thought that while the SCO guys were unscrupulous at least they were smart. Now it’s beginning to look as though they are just clueless. In their latest attempt to shake down some Fortune 100 companies, they demand that they stop using Linux, or reach an agreement with SCO over what it claims are copyrighted “binary interfaces”.

“Any part of any Linux file that includes the copyrighted binary interface code must be removed,” says the demand. SCO identifies a number of files which, once machine-specific versions are discounted, boil down to simply four header files. The claim is that the files signal.h, ioctl.h, errno.h,stat.h and ctype.h contain copyright infringing code.

These files, according to SCO, “must carry USL / SCO copyright notices and may not be used in any GPL distribution, inasmuch as the affirmative consent of the copyright holder has not been obtained, and will not be obtained, for such a distribution under the GPL.”

This is interesting, because it’s not that long ago since SCO spokesman Blake Stowell denied that these binary interfaces contain allegedly infringing code.

“This code is under the GPL and it re-implements publicly documented interfaces”, he said. We do not have an issue with the Linux ABI modules.”

So what’s going on? Do these guys know what they’re doing? Linux/UNIX techies are falling about laughing over these particular claims. And Linus Torvalds has now weighed in. He writes:

“For example, SCO lists the files “include/linux/ctype.h” and “lib/ctype.h”, and some trivial digging shows that those files are actually there in the original 0.01 distribution of Linux (ie September of 1991). And I can state

– I wrote them (and looking at the original ones, I’m a bit ashamed: the “toupper()” and “tolower()” macros are so horribly ugly that I wouldn’t admit to writing them if it wasn’t because somebody else claimed to have done so ;)

– writing them is no more than five minutes of work (you can verify that with any C programmer, so you don’t have to take my word for it)

– the details in them aren’t even the same as in the BSD/UNIX files (the approach is the same, but if you look at actual implementation details you will notice that it’s not just that my original “tolower/toupper” were embarrassingly ugly, a number of other details differ too).

In short: for the files where I personally checked the history, I can definitely say that those files are trivially written by me personally, with no copying from any UNIX code _ever_.

So it’s definitely not a question of “all derivative branches”. It’s a question of the fact that I can show (and SCO should have been able to see) that the list they show clearly shows original work, not “copied”.”

So back to my question. Could it be that the SCO guys are really just clowns who are chancing their arms and hoping that FUD will persuade some companies to pay up just in case…? So far, the SCO lawsuit has proved a pretty expensive gamble. According to The Register, “SCO’s legal costs continue to wipe out its hard earned profit. SCOX reported a loss of $1.6 million for the quarter on sales of $24.3 million, after excluding a $9 million charge for legal fees. It would have posted a $7.4 million profit otherwise.”

Later:: Just noticed that the NYT also covers Linus’s response.

Still later:Novell has entered the fray. According to the NYT of 24 December, “Novell Inc. has quietly registered for the copyrights on many versions of the Unix computer operating system that the SCO Group already says it owns, further muddying the water surrounding a dispute that has embroiled the Linux open source world for almost a year.


SCO reacted on Monday to Novell’s decision to register for the Unix copyrights by calling the move a backdoor act to claim code that is rightfully SCO’s. “We see this as a fraudulent attempt by Novell to get something they don’t have,” said Darl C. McBride, president and chief executive of SCO. “It’s fraudulent to now go and say they have these” copyright registrations.

Mr. McBride contended that Novell was acting as a stalking horse for I.B.M., the biggest seller of Linux to corporations. “It’s not just Novell,” Mr. McBride said. “It’s an attack by I.B.M.””