SCO declares total war on GNU/Linux

Posted 14 May 2003 at 21:34 UTC by atai Share This

SCO, the owner of the "real" Unix "intellectual property", has decided to go off the deep end, drops out of the Linux distribution business, and launches all out attack on all GNU/Linux businesses and users. This is the final struggle between Unix and GNU is not Unix, as GNU and Linux makes the real Unix obsolete in the marketplace, and the final attempt by the Unix owner to profit from their dying product. This is the biggest legal challenge to the rising popularity of GNU/Linux ever.

SCO's letter to GNU/Linux users:

Letter To Linux Customers


May 12, 2003

Dear commercial Linux user:

SCO holds the rights to the UNIX operating system software originally licensed by AT&T to approximately 6,000 companies and institutions worldwide (the ``UNIX Licenses''). The vast majority of UNIX software used in enterprise applications today is a derivative work of the software originally distributed under our UNIX Licenses. Like you, we have an obligation to our shareholders to protect our intellectual property and other valuable rights.

In recent years, a UNIX-like operating system has emerged and has been distributed in the enterprise marketplace by various software vendors. This system is called Linux. We believe that Linux is, in material part, an unauthorized derivative of UNIX.

As you may know, the development process for Linux has differed substantially from the development process for other enterprise operating systems. Commercial software is built by carefully selected and screened teams of programmers working to build proprietary, secure software. This process is designed to monitor the security and ownership of intellectual property rights associated with the code.

By contrast, much of Linux has been built from contributions by numerous unrelated and unknown software developers, each contributing a small section of code. There is no mechanism inherent in the Linux development process to assure that intellectual property rights, confidentiality or security are protected. The Linux process does not prevent inclusion of code that has been stolen outright, or developed by improper use of proprietary methods and concepts.

Many Linux contributors were originally UNIX developers who had access to UNIX source code distributed by AT&T and were subject to confidentiality agreements, including confidentiality of the methods and concepts involved in software design. We have evidence that portions of UNIX System V software code have been copied into Linux and that additional other portions of UNIX System V software code have been modified and copied into Linux, seemingly for the purposes of obfuscating their original source.

As a consequence of Linux's unrestricted authoring process, it is not surprising that Linux distributors do not warrant the legal integrity of the Linux code provided to customers. Therefore legal liability that may arise from the Linux development process may also rest with the end user.

We believe that Linux infringes on our UNIX intellectual property and other rights. We intend to aggressively protect and enforce these rights. Consistent with this effort, on March 7, we initiated legal action against IBM for alleged unfair competition and breach of contract with respect to our UNIX rights. This case is pending in Utah Federal District Court. As you are aware, this case has been widely reported and commented upon in the press. If you would like additional information, a copy of the complaint and response may be viewed at our web site at

For the reasons explained above, we have also announced the suspension of our own Linux-related activities until the issues surrounding Linux intellectual property and the attendant risks are better understood and properly resolved.

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

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. 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.

Yours truly,


By: _________________________
Darl McBride
President and CEO

if you want a license..., posted 15 May 2003 at 04:59 UTC by gmp » (Apprentice)

SCO is explicitly putting their property under the GPL. If you want a license, just download the kernel source from their ftp site (

dump SCO shares, posted 15 May 2003 at 13:15 UTC by sye » (Journeyer)

i feel their pain but if i own SCO shares, i'd be selling them fast.

Linux, not GNU/Linux, posted 15 May 2003 at 18:52 UTC by brlewis » (Journeyer)

IIUC, the code in question is all part of the Linux kernel. The rest of the GNU/Linux OS is not affected.

Re: Linux, not GNU/Linux, posted 15 May 2003 at 22:08 UTC by dlc » (Apprentice)

IIUC, the code in question is all part of the Linux kernel. The rest of the GNU/Linux OS is not affected.

If this is in fact the case, then now is the time to start putting more emphasis on other kernels, like the HURD.

Assignment papers would have helped, posted 15 May 2003 at 22:20 UTC by gord » (Master)

This is the reason the FSF collects assignment papers from contributors to GNU software. With those legal documents, it is possible for the maintainer to pin the blame of stolen code on the thief.

I hope that somehow this will happen in SCO's attack... that the people who added the code are the ones who will be prosecuted, and the other developers will be left alone to replace the tainted code with clean-room rewritten code.

Serious Legal Battle Seems Unlikely, posted 17 May 2003 at 21:15 UTC by glyph » (Master)

The OSI has issued a position paper on the claims in a related legal brief against IBM. It seems unlikely to me, considering how much of this position is based on outright lying, that this will get very far in the courts.

Hurd? No, please..., posted 19 May 2003 at 03:52 UTC by gwolf » (Journeyer)

Ugh... dlc, have you ever used the Hurd? I did so a couple of weeks ago - it looks like a nice project to play with, maybe even to hack on...
It is still sadly too immature for being a system developed for so many years. I don't give much hope to the Hurd becoming a stable, efficient, production-level OS in the forseeable future.
I think the only alternative we would have is to use a BSD system. Yes, they rock. But I think the SCO lawsuit has nowhere to stand on... So don't worry :)

And if Microsoft ..?, posted 19 May 2003 at 09:38 UTC by Malx » (Journeyer)

Microsoft to Buy Unix Technology From SCO Group

GNU/Hurd, posted 19 May 2003 at 22:44 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

it's called GNU/Hurd.

GNU/Hurd has what... five part-time developers?

how many does the linux kernel have??

i would _love_ to see GNU/hurd replace the linux kernel as the mainstream kernel for GNU/Linux.

the only way i believe that is going to happen is if GNU/Hurd actually gets INTO the linux kernel distribution, therefore it will get attention, compiled, remain up-to-date etc.

remember that most of the kernel modules / device drivers of GNU/Hurd actually are taken directly - unmodified - from the linux kernel, to the point where a separate project, oskit, has been created.

the whole approach of UNIX is seriously outdated.

the security model is radically old.

to build a kernel around UNIX that only does the UNIX security model is a fundamentally flawed approach when it comes to interacting, securely, with other systems in this modern - internet - age.

it is IMPOSSIBLE to add proper security support to UNIX without having to "invent" your own userspace services that then have to be built in to every application.

the GNU/Hurd modular approach allows services to register APIs with the kernel that are then made available to other programs.

the kernel becomes a broker - which is as it should be.

in the GNU/Hurd, there _is_ no UNIX. it's all POSIX; it's all at user-space.

you could write your own VAX/VMS security model (a la Windows NT/2000).

you could make Wine bypass the POSIX subsystem and run natively under GNU/Hurd (a la Windows NT/2000).

these things are really really awkward to do under the linux kernel.

so my recommendation to the open source community is to side-step the issue; move forward instead of wishing SCO all the best bad luck in the world: let their desire to own UNIX be their own undoing; set the trends of the 21st century that others have to follow because there are millions of linux installations out there, now: go for it!

Halting their Linux distro necessary, posted 22 May 2003 at 17:46 UTC by robocoder » (Journeyer)

I'm not a lawyer.

In breach of contract cases, there is a duty to mitigate loss. Since SCO is arguing that intellectual property rights have been violated, they needed to suspend their Linux activities. Conceivably, this hurts their case because they launched their lawsuit on March 6, and then two months later (May 12) decided to halt further distribution. It's perhaps for this reason that they call this an act "in good faith", rather than admit not having taken early steps to mitigate the loss.

Why the Hurd has failed, posted 22 May 2003 at 23:59 UTC by jbuck » (Master)

Linux hasn't done better than the Hurd because it has more developers, it has done better because the Hurd lacks a coherent design, and it lacks a talented lead architect. Attracting more volunteers won't help with that.

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