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SCO Gives Notice To 6,000 Unix Licensees 442

inode_buddha writes "This article describes SCO's recent letters to its UNIX licensees, asking them to certify that they '...are not using Unix code in Linux.' It also notes another set of letters '...outlining additional evidence of copyright infringement to a subset of 1,500 global Linux users that SCO first contacted in May about copyright infringement.' There's also a decent breakdown of the company's balance sheet and some quotes from company officials. I hope to see one of those 'other' letters; could anyone post it? SCO better have asbestos underwear." Ask and receive: idiotnot adds "Here's the article from the Sydney Morning Herald. Here is a PDF Copy of the letter." "Yours truly"?
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SCO Gives Notice To 6,000 Unix Licensees

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  • by matth ( 22742 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @08:59AM (#7890040) Homepage
    I'm still waiting to actually see the evidence that SCO claims is in the Linux source code. They showed us one example, and if I recall it was mostly comments!
  • It's obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:04AM (#7890064) Homepage
    This has to be some pathetic cry for help. Later, we'll look back and think "If we'd said something or done something, perhaps it didn't have to happen that way." Then we'll remember that it was Darl and SCO, and shrug.
  • Re:Come on IBM. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lorphos ( 194963 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:06AM (#7890076)
    Please don't! Rewarding these criminals will set a bad example for everyone else. You are right. They are wrong. Sit it out. Make them pay in the end. That's the only way to deal with their kind.

    (aka "We don't negotiate with terrorists")
  • by Safety Cap ( 253500 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:07AM (#7890078) Homepage Journal
    They have until Jan 8th... :)
  • Ironic that at least two Caldera employees have, with Caldera's blessing, contributed code to Linux. End of case, you can all go home now.

    Perhaps Linus should send a similar letter to SCOX and the same addressees, requiring them to guarantee that none of their SCOX or derivative code includes any contributions from the Linux codebase?
  • Re:Come on IBM. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by surprise_audit ( 575743 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:12AM (#7890110)
    Why would IBM want to buy SCO, when they can pound them into the ground, and then be handed their assets in settlement by the judge? Much more satisfying for all concerned - well, all that matter, anyway... :)
  • Waste of time... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:18AM (#7890146) Homepage
    Perhaps The SCO Group's legal department would have put better use to their time producing evidence of the so-called contract infringement by Monday. Any recipient of the notice should at least wait until Monday to see whether the judge dismisses the case (translation out of legalspeak: Boies and Co get laughed out of court) due to lack of such evidence, which I've seen nothing to indicate they have.

    I expect that the following announcement was heard in SCO offices: "Thank you for pressing the self-destruct button. The company will implode in 6 days."
  • by Zan Zu from Eridu ( 165657 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:21AM (#7890161) Journal
    1. You are not running Linux binary code that was compiled from any version of Linux that contains our copyrighted application binary interface code ("ABI Code") specifically identified in the attached notification letter.
    So basicly you're not allowed to run Linux anymore if you sign this (unless it's a version prior to 2.4).
  • by Amiga Lover ( 708890 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:24AM (#7890181)
    From the letter:

    Accordingly, SCO requires written certification by your authorized representative under Para. 2.04 within 30 days of receipt of this letter. Such written certification must include statements that:

    1. You are not running Linux binary code that was compiled from any version of Linux that contains our copyrighted application binary interface code ("ABI Code") specifically identified in the attached notification letter.

    SCO is, in effect, attempting to use their claimed copyright (unproven and untested) over linux's header files as a way to say "If you use our UNIX, you may not use Linux at all" because, in effect, all Linux contains the code they allege is theirs.

    It's a bit like GM finding a loophole in the invention of the wheel and sending out a letter to their customers, reminding them they are not allowed to own a Ford too.
  • Re:Gone Fishing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rocketboy ( 32971 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:24AM (#7890185)
    Fishing, yes, but not for the license. They sent the letter to license holders. No, what they're fishing for is who is contributing to Linux (any contributions, from any source.) It's a poison pen: admit that you've contributed to Linux (whether from SCO or not) and you can expect at least a discovery lawsuit, if not a full-bore infringement action from SCO. Not terribly clever of them but I think they're running out of alleged infringement examples. They've been reduced to mining their hapless customer base for both more examples as well as more defendents. Things aren't going well in SCO-land, I think.

  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:25AM (#7890189) Homepage Journal
    The Better Business Bureau is a paper tiger - just because a company is listed as "satisfactory" with them does not mean the company is not a wretched hive of scum and villany.

    The BBB used to be feared and respected - threatening a company with "I'll report you to the BBB" caused great gnashing of teeth and usually got things fixed quickly.

    But little by little, companies realised that they could target the BBB with lawsuits for definition^Wdefamation of character. They realised that they could join the BBB, and thus slowly subvert its goals toward their own ends.

    Little by little the BBB became flooded with reports, and little by little the BBB began to pursue only the most egregious examples of behavior - ignoring little things to concentrate on "what really matters".

    Little by little, the response to "I'll report you to the BBB" became <voice name="butthead">" Yawn Yeah, whatever, go 'way, you suck"</voice>

    True, if you find a company listed as "unsatisfactory" by the BBB you should run as though the very demons of hell pursued thee, but assuming that a clean bill of health from the BBB means that a company is clean is a very WRONG leap of faith.

    (For fun, you can go through the above with the following replacements and it will be equally valid:



    s/businesses/posters/g && s/BBB/moderators/g
  • by Thumper_SVX ( 239525 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:25AM (#7890191) Homepage
    How exactly are the licensees supposed to certify that they're NOT using UNIX code in Linux, if SCO is unwilling to identify said code??? I mean, a kernel changes a lot depending upon what has been compiled in... how do I know if I'm using it or not?

    Can somebody mod SCO -1 TROLL?
  • by ozbird ( 127571 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:27AM (#7890205)
    They have until Jan 8th... :)

    "Your honour, we asked 6000 of our licensees to provide evidence that they are in full compliance with their licenses, but none of them did. Clearly they are infringing on our IP, so we'd like to expand our case..."
  • by mormop ( 415983 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:29AM (#7890215)
    I wouldn't worry. Until they provide some positive proof that they own whatever it is they claim they own along with a list of the exact code segments, no judge in their right mind would uphold the letter even if you signed it.

    It's a bit like saying to someone:

    "sign this letter to certify that you aren't using my company's oil in your car".

    "What oil company do you own"?

    "I'm not telling you that, just sign to say you're not using it"!

    It is patently obvious to anyone with even the slightest bit of common sense that it is an unreasonable demand unless you're provided with at least the brand of oil, and proof of the fact that the guy owns it. To date, SCO still have no positive proof of anything until 2005 so you can ignore the ever more demented Darl and Co. at least until then.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:36AM (#7890250)
    Running my own small business the question arises why I should certify anything to anyone who has no official business of requesting my certification?

    Since the existence of "Unix code in Linux" is at the heart of the litigation, and so is the extent of ownership by SCO of legacy Unix after the AT&T/BSD affair, the recipients of the SCO letter would seem to be within their rights to reply with deferral of any such certification until the ongoing legal process has been completed. (Unless of course SCO offered to pay for the work of certification out of their own funds.)

    Given the number of letters sent out by SCO, it might be useful for a lawyer or paralegal to draft a response template along these lines as the basis for company replies.
  • by questamor ( 653018 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:36AM (#7890255)
    > SCO is, in effect, attempting to use their claimed
    > copyright (unproven and untested) over linux's header
    > files as a way to say "If you use our UNIX, you may not
    > use Linux at all" because, in effect, all Linux contains the
    > code they allege is theirs.

    They also mention the possibility of terminating their license to use SCO's product if you don't certify to them. They're forcing people to choose Unix or Linux, one or the other, not both.

    Since Linux is far more popular and prevalent, I'm guessing there'll soon be a lot fewer UNIX licensees, with only those four people left who absolutely can't get by without their Unix
  • by Epsillon ( 608775 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:40AM (#7890286) Journal
    No, actually the quoted text in your post says "containing our copyrighted application binary interface code". They haven't proved that the versions you mention do contain such code and until they have, any such speculation remains just that.
  • by deprogram ( 663409 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:42AM (#7890297) Homepage
    And they had to fudge numbers to make it not as obvious as it should have been. See:

    The fourth-quarter revenue included $14m from sales of Unix products and services, with an additional $10.3m from licensing agreements with Microsoft and Sun Microsystems signed earlier in the year.

    The $9m charge for legal fees kept the company's fourth quarter in the red. The company reported a net loss of $1.6m but said it would have seen net income at $7.4m without the legal expenses.

    The licensing agreements (which were one-time deals, I can assure you, and smell like protection money anyway) were signed before the last quarter. Which doesn't matter, anyway, but it makes the end of the year look especially bad. The fact that they are so brazen as to suggest that they would have been profitable without their legal schemery is fantastic - there's no chance Sun or MS would have been paying them off without the games they've been playing.

    Read between the lines. They are barely in the black, and it won't last. In fact, it's over already.

  • by jochietoch ( 724781 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:47AM (#7890347)
    6. Neither you nor your contractors or employees have made available for export, directly or indirectly, any part of the Software Products covered by this Agreement to any country that is currently prohibited from receiving supercomputing technology, including Syria, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and any other such country, through a distribution under the General Public License for Linux, or otherwise.
    SCO seems to be suggesting here that distribution under GPL automatically violates U.S. export restrictions. Hadn't heard that one before... Is this a new line of attack by SCO? Or did I just miss it?
  • Re:Gone Fishing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WCMI92 ( 592436 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:49AM (#7890363) Homepage
    Not to mention, threatening your OWN customers isn't a very smart thing to do.

    No matter WHAT happens, SCO is a doomed company. Even if they win, the cash they get from IBM will be a one time thing, they have so destroyed their reputation they will never be able to do business again.

    Even IF their allegations about Linux are proven, they will eventually be FORCED to reveal what is infringing, which will allow Linus, et all to get it out of the kernel. Linux will be damaged, so will Linux business, but the problem will be resolved and no Linux user will need to pay SCO.

    Now, we know they have yet to provide _ANY_ evidence that hasn't been quickly made them look stupid. Even IF the doomesday scenario happens, SCO's behavior has made it virtually impossible for them to get the damages they seek (as they've made no effort to mitigate damages as they are required to do under the law), so any court victory will likely be barely enough to pay their lawyers (if that) and the code will be revealed and ripped from Linux.

    Any way you cut it, SCO is doomed, and anyone betting on the SCO lottery would be better off buying the Powerball... You are more likely to win that than you are as a SCO investor to see ANY return on any money they get from this lawsuit (it will all go to their lawyers) or from future earnings (there won't be any).
  • by theonetruekeebler ( 60888 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:55AM (#7890398) Homepage Journal
    To repeat myself [], SCO will not get a single reply. These two letters are a fishing expedition to sucker future lawsuit victims into signing up. SCO will probably send a second round of letters to all non-respondants in a few weeks, promising dire, horrible consequences to those who refuse to roll over. Those letters will be ignored, too.
  • by yourruinreverse ( 564043 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @09:55AM (#7890403)
    The article's title reads: SCO sends notices to 6,000 Linux licensees []. The rest of the article contains no such error. Now, that wouldn't be false but alarming on purpose, would it?
  • by xixax ( 44677 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @10:01AM (#7890456)
    From my reading, SCO is telling their customers that they must swear allegience to Darl and be tied in to his fool's crusade or their licence gets revoked and they get sued. In effect, SCO users are being forced to decide immediately between Xenix or Linux.

    If a company decides to swear fealty to SCO, they risk being left with an obsolete 1980's Unix that's as useful as a Trabant and vendor who has been counter sued to atoms by IBM. If they decide this ultimatum is a good reason to ditch Xenix for Linux, mad Pope Darl may excommunicate them, send the inquisition and loudly proclaim that Linux is indeed harming SCO.

    I suppose the intent in forcing this hand might be to get PHBs to make quick, expedient decisions that minimise their exposure to immediate risk.

    Now what I want to know what Sun's going to say regarding *their* letter from mad Pope Darl? Did they get one? How will Scott respond?

  • by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @10:05AM (#7890482) Homepage
    Microsoft buying SCO would be a hideously bad choice for Microsoft. They would assume liability for the lawsuit, and IBM would stand a good chance of collecting damages plus costs from Microsoft (with its $30+ billion cash pile). I think Microsoft will prefer to pay "Unix licensing fees" with an unspoken agreement that the fees will underwrite more Linux bashing -- the trade libel that RedHat filed over.
  • by savageps91 ( 676830 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @10:06AM (#7890486)
    Here is SCO's treatment of their customers. It is now painfully obvious that they do not have the interests of anyone in mind - they are being greedy and selfish. If for no other reason than that, they will ultimately fail. Once a person or entity gets the greed on, they become blind to reality and make some of the _dumbest decisions known to man_ (TM) Let anyone who thought about buying anything from SCO. You are licensing yourself for continual harrasment from SCO's gestapo. Caveat Emptor.
  • by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @10:40AM (#7890767) Homepage
    Some of Darl's claims seem to me to constitute fraud. To heck with a suit I want Darl in jail.
  • by debest ( 471937 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @11:00AM (#7890955)
    The fact that they are so brazen as to suggest that they would have been profitable without their legal schemery is fantastic - there's no chance Sun or MS would have been paying them off without the games they've been playing.

    Ummm, I'd say exactly the opposite! SUN and Microsoft happen to be two companies that benefit the most from SCO FUD (makers of the most predominant UNIX and "other" operating systems, respectively). They are cheering SCO on in their battle against Linux. Why would they submit "licencing" fees to SCO for UNIX when: (1)SUN owns a perpetual claim to Solaris UNIX (claims they are the only ones who do) and (2)Microsoft has no need for one!

    I submit that neither SUN nor Microsoft are stupid. I also submit that neither is the rest of the world, all of whom have ignored SCO. Therefore, it is actually in SUN and MS's best interest to pay SCO for "licencing".

    Don't be at all surprised if very shortly (presuming this mess is not stopped by the courts shortly), these two companies are again asked by SCO to "licence SCO's UNIX technology", and lo and behold another $15 million or so flows in to keep the lawyers busy!
  • FUD back (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @11:00AM (#7890958) Homepage
    "All IP in Linux is licenced to us by their respective copyright owners, as indicated by the copyright notice included at the top of each source file. Should you believe any of these licences are incorrect or invalid, we ask that you seek a court verdict to that effect. Until such time that you can provide one, we consider all such IP to be legally licenced.

    As required by the 2.04, we certify that following a review, we are in compliance with the terms of the agreement. The contract does not require us to go into further detail on this matter. Should you wish to pursue this matter further, we ask that you specifically list what provisions you claim have been broken, and any evidence to that effect.

    I.R. Lawyer
    Legal department"
  • by dipipanone ( 570849 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @11:04AM (#7891023)
    In fact, comments are probably the most copyrightable thing about software. Becuase they are free form and do not have to conform to a syntax (other than the methods of initiating and ending a comment) and because they don't have a functional purpose, they are purely expressive. Copyright protects original works of expression.

    That's absolutely true, but think about how copyright is enforced? Damages are awarded for the value of the breach.

    The fact is that the loss I'd cause to you by copying your comments would be a big fat zero. So while you're technically correct, the real-world legal implications have little or no significance.

    IANAL, etc.
  • by myrashka ( 452794 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @11:22AM (#7891216)
    IANAL - however, I'm pretty sure that in cases like this (license enforcement, trademark enforcement, ip enforcement, etc), it helps your case to show you are actively trying to enforce your rights (in the case of tradmark enforcement, it's a requirement)...this letter is probably a long list of things SCO's lawyers list as required for a successful case (and have suckered SCO into paying them to creat).

    So perhaps SCO is fishing for suckers (takes one to know one), but likely, they're don't care and will send out lots of letters like this to show that they've made efforts and have been blantantly ignored. Of course, the only one's getting rich here will be SCO's lawyers.

    Again, IANAL - but who cares if anyone responds...the key is SCO is going through the motions of being a proper litigant...
  • by mcc ( 14761 ) <> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @12:50PM (#7892295) Homepage
    This means that anyone who bought a UNIX license under the belief that doing so would give them the license to use SCO's "property" in linux is now being threatened if they do not stop using SCO's property in linux!

    So they're being legally threatened for the exact thing they thought they were paying money to avoid being legally threatened for. Whereas the rest of us are still being ignored. If anyone actually fell for this the first time, I'll be they're feeling pretty ripped off. :D

    When the "deal" was first announced on slashdot, I heard two comments a lot: "If you accept, you're probably just going to use it as a pretense to extort more money from you later, since by buying the license you're admitting they're right." and: "Only a fool would buy a license from SCO thinking it provides indemnification; SCO has already revoked "irrevokable" licenses multiple times during this lawsuit fiasco."

    Now SCO is demanding the people who bought the license either (1) take drastic steps to stop using SCO's competitors or (2) legally implicate themselves further by making a silly "certification" that could be easily accidentally violated, thus offering up a means for SCO to sue them that they didn't have before (because now they can sue you for violating the certification). And if you don't comply with SCO's demands, they'll revoke your license that you thought was irrevokable.

    (BTW, I don't at all *mind*, but I think that maybe, if you liked the grandparent comment, you might be like to know where they copied it from []. It made a bit more sense in that story's context, though it of course applies here as well.)
  • by You're All Wrong ( 573825 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @12:53PM (#7892317)

    Where I come from, "SCO may examine legal remedies, including termination of the license." en masse looks remarkably close to barratry.

    (As they have already pulled people into court, the threat is a concrete one. US law seems to require more evilness than most in order to count as barratry, but it's surely getting close.)

  • Re:Afraid not! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HiThere ( 15173 ) * <<charleshixsn> <at> <>> on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @12:59PM (#7892382)
    So the official public statements of Executive Director Love don't constitute valid grounds for the management to believe him?

    Also, I think that your legal theories are a bit incorrect. Someone acting in the name of an organization, i.e. as an agent of the corporation, can, I believe, comit the corporation to a contract. If the agency was fradulent, then the corporation can extract payment from the false agent, but I don't believe that it can usually take back the goods that were, e.g., sold.

    It's a lot murkier than that, but I think that that's the gist. And people definitely had grounds for believing that the Caldera employees were acting as agents for the corp., and so did the employees (they had not only their manager's approval, but also the public statements of the executive director).

    Were this not true, nobody would sell paperclips to a corp. without the signature of the board on the purchase order.

  • (Score:2, Insightful)

    by grendel's mom ( 550034 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @12:59PM (#7892385)
    If I were to receive one of these letters, the first thing I would be asking myself is, "how can certify that I am "not using Unix code in Linux" if I don't know what that code may be. I think they would have to provide me with examples from the latest kernel. Only then could I be sure.
  • by FrankDrebin ( 238464 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @01:17PM (#7892562) Homepage

    So SCO is demanding certification under a provision of existing agreements stating the Unix licensee must answer compliance queries, at most anually. If I got one of these letters, I would answer... only that I was in compliance with the original Unix agreement (assuming I was).

    As far as all the extra crap about not using Linux and not exporting to Cuba, I would ignore. How can you be bound to answer on subjects that you have no contractual or legal obligation?

    SCO might as well be asking to certify that the room in which all Unix machines run is not painted green. Why would anyone answer that (true or not)? It's just not SCO's business.

  • SCO backsteps (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Teahouse ( 267087 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2004 @02:31PM (#7893291)
    requiring them to certify that they are in full compliance with their Unix source code agreements and are not using Unix code in Linux.

    Unless I am mistaken, this is a backstep from the original letter. Certifying you have no UNIX code is far different from the whole derivative ideas crap they were claiming last time. A large company's lawyer will reply with:

    Please notify us of which UNIX source codes you are referring to, as this company has no legal requirement to SCO to certify anything until you receive a favorable legal judgement. We will be happy to comply beforehand, but there is no burden on us and we require your help. If you can inform us of the violations, we will be happy to work with the programming community to eliminate any current violations once you have made us aware of them.

    A letter like this will show a willingness to eliminate any copyright violation, while still putting the burden on SCO to provide actual instances of infringment. The fact that SCO is asking for the good-faith effort in the first place definitely seems a lot weaker than their previous letter.

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.