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SCO Takes Claims to SGI, Appeals to Open-Source Community

By Jay Lyman LinuxInsider ECT News Network
Sep 9, 2003 3:30 PM PT

In a letter posted today on its company Web site and some open-source sites, SCO Group chief executive Darl McBride aimed the Unix-code-in-Linux claims at Silicon Graphics, which SCO says it is in discussions with over the matter.

SCO Takes Claims to SGI, Appeals to Open-Source Community

In the letter, McBride decries recent denial-of-service (DoS) attacks against the SCO Web site. He blames the attacks on the open-source community and points to the SGI claims, saying both developments "adversely affect the long-term credibility of the open-source community with the general public and with customers."

McBride, whose Lindon, Utah-based company is suing IBM for US$3 billion for allegedly copying SCO's Unix System V source code into Linux, also criticized the existing open-source software development process, saying "the intellectual property roots of Linux are obviously flawed at a systemic level under the current model."

Aberdeen Group research director Bill Claybrook told TechNewsWorld that there is a need for change in open-source software development and code accountability.

"You've got to have some checks and balances to know the code you're using with the open-source community is okay; you have to know more about it," Claybrook said. "That sort of flies in the face of the open-source idea, but now there's enough code in real, serious products in use that it's needed."

Same Claims with SGI

In his "open letter to the open-source community," McBride claims a Linux developer on the payroll of SGI "stripped copyright attributions from copyrighted System V code that was licensed to Silicon Graphics under strict conditions of use, and then contributed that source code into Linux as though it was clean code owned and controlled by SGI."

SCO spokesperson Blake Stowell told TechNewsWorld that the two companies have been in talks for a month or so and that SCO prefers to settle the issue without further litigation.

"We've been in dialogues, and our hope is that we can come to an amicable understanding and that we can just solve this between the two companies," Stowell said.

In response, SGI said in a statement that it believes its release of code as open source to Linux has been consistent with its Unix contract with SCO.

"The bottom line is that SCO has no basis for a claim against us," the statement said.

Fundamental Flaws

McBride cited the "improper contribution of Unix code by SGI into Linux" as one small example of how the Linux development process is fundamentally flawed.

"To date, we claim that more than one million lines of UNIX System V protected code have been contributed to Linux through this model," the letter said. "The flaws inherent in the Linux process must be openly addressed and fixed."

Aberdeen's Claybrook said that he and many others in the open-source community agree there must be changes in the open-source development process, which has not changed over the past few years.

"Nobody's really liable, so to speak, for the code that comes out," Claybrook said. "I think that people should be accountable. You shouldn't just accept open-source software under the [General Public License] as being all right."

Weighing Issues

Despite its recent history of confrontation with the open-source community, McBride wrote that SCO is open to working with the community on a sustainable business model for open-source software.

"I think Darl McBride wants to show the open-source community he can be reasonable and that, hopefully, we can meet our objective of protecting our intellectual property while at the same time allowing Linux to go on," Stowell said.

Claybrook, who said the Open Source Development Lab would be a logical place to produce guidelines for open-source software development, added that regardless of the outcome of SCO's legal action, the debate is weighing heavily on the issues surrounding open source.

"People will be trying to do something about [the issues]," Claybrook said. "They are going to start looking at what code goes into Linux and other open-source software, a lot of which is in heavy use."

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