The SCO Group, formerly Caldera Linux Systems International, has upped its strident tones as it marches headlong into oblivion. It would be funny if they weren’t trying to take GNU/Linux with them. This time, they are stopping all sales of SCO Linux and Caldera OpenLinux products (the products that gave them the money to buy SCO Group to begin with), and they’ve even taken the unusual step of threatening their own customers, who bought the software in good faith from them.
This is so astounding as to be unbelievable. It’s the equivalent of saying, “You know that watch I sold you last year? Yeah, I just figured out the manufacturer (who gave me the watches for free) might have stolen the design from me, so I’m not selling it anymore. Oh, by the way, I’m not giving you your money back, you can’t use the watch anymore, and I’m turning you in for buying stolen property. What’s that? Why didn’t I figure any of this out before I started selling the watches? Because I didn’t bother to look at my designs, and they aren’t very good anyway.”
The Free Software Foundation needs to get directly involved at this point, because SCO-Caldera is making a mockery of the GNU GPL. They are in material breach of the license with this attempt at highway robbery.
The license states, in part (emphases mine):
4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.
5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it.
6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients’ exercise of the rights granted herein. You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to this License.
Let’s leave aside, for a moment, all arguments about whether or not GNU/Linux, or any parts of it, illegally use SCO-owned source code. By distributing GNU/Linux, SCO has already granted their customers a perpetual, irrevocable license to any allegedly infringing code, and the license to redistribute it under the same license. The only company that can be blamed for distributing SCO-owned source code is SCO. Caldera’s only option to prevent that would have been to stop selling Caldera OpenLinux products the day they bought SCO Group; even then, it wouldn’t be clear, since they (as Calera) would still have been party this alleged infringment (against themselves as SCO). By distributing code under the GPL, they have already given their consent to its inclusion in any other distribution and any other GPL-licensed program.
What’s shocking is that every time they make a new infringement claim, SCO’s stock price goes up – their shareholders actually think they will make money trying to bully IBM, Sun, RedHat, SuSE (their partners in UnitedLinux) and every GNU/Linux user on the planet. AT&T wasn’t able to successfully sue BSD for infringment 15 years ago. So little of the original AT&T UNIX code was present in BSD Unix that AT&T had to settle rather than lose a countersuit. What do SCO, the heirs of that AT&T UNIX codebase (and more importantly, their shareholders) think has changed? GNU/Linux isn’t even a BSD-derivative – it’s a totally separate work.
Eric Raymond of the Open Source Initiative and Rob Landley have drafted an excellent position paper to be submitted as an amicus curiae brief in the SCO-IBM lawuit. It highlights exactly how laughable and unbelievable SCO’s claims are even if they hadn’t given up their right to sue by themselves distributing the allegedly infringing work. I suggest anyone interested in keeping Free Software free should read it, because it is full of the kind of half-truths and baldfaced lies we can expect any company trying to malign Free Software to use.