Gunning for Linux: The free operating system is breaking Microsoft’s monopoly
This abstract is of an article from Fortune magazine in May 2004.
I wanted a clearer picture as to how exactly what is happening in regards to Linux and the business world, and this was the best piece I could find. The article starts by defining SCO, and it states that SCO
has become notorious in three insular communities, namely the countercultural programmers,
then the CIOs and then the lawyers. SCO is suing IBM for breaking intellectual property law
concerning what they claim to be propriety code that is embedded in Linux.
IBM is doing very well with Linux, having reported more then $2 billion in revenues from Linux-related
products last year, which is a gain of 50% over the previous year. And Linux is everywhere,
in everything – cell phones, TiVos, DVDs – all these consumer products have started to run on
stripped down, embedded versions of Linux. Even the desktop environment is starting to show
gains for Linux.
Since Linux is so important to business today, the suit with SCO has created a lot of attention.
SCO’s disput stems from SCO’s 2001 acquisition of UNIX. Included in the purchase were some
30,000 licensing contracts, including IBM’s.
At first SCO only claimed that IBM had injected some of the code from their UNIX flavor, AIX,
into the Linux OS. But now SCO is claiming that other parts of Linux have fragments of UNIX code
in there, too. They want every server user of Linux to pay them to use the code for any UNIX code
that might be floating around in there.
To make things even more complicated, Novell, the company that sold UNIX to the company that sold it
to SCO, started claiming that they still owned crucial parts of UNIX and cited an impossibly
confusing 1995 contract where they retained certain rights. SCO promptly filed suit against Novell
for slandering their claim to UNIX in January of 2004.
This march, Sco sued AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler for using Linux. The entire business world now has to start paying attention to the situation that is brewing.
How did this happen? Well it turns out that Richard Stallman, the MIT guy that built GNU and
put copyleft out there was rock solid. Everybody who donated code to his project signed release forms
and gave rights to the Free Software Foundation. The problem stems from Linus Torvalds. When Torvalds
was working on the Linux kernal, he was just 19 and a Finnish college student. He was working
on a labor of love, and although he filed with Stallman’s Free Software Foundation for the GPL (General Public License), he neglected to use any method to ensure that the copyrights would go to a central
entity, or that the code that was donated to his project wasn’t stolen. torvals was a Finn,
and didn’t consider the vast future legal implications in American copyright law as
Stallman had. Consequently, there is the claim to propriety code in the kernal.
Of course the Linux community is skeptical: SCO refuses to show anybody what part of the code is theirs. Since Linux developers have offered to rewrite the offending code, it makes SCO look very bad.
How will this turn out? As long as open source has big business sugar daddies like IBM with a large stake in it’s future, it will prosper. SCO has become a reviled company for going after Linux.
Parloff, Roger “Gunning for Linux: The free operating system – backed by IBM, HP and others – is
breaking Microsoft’s monopoly. But a lawsuit by SCO, which claims to own part of the code, could wreck
the party.” Fortune, May 17, 2004.