We discussed the SCO intellectual property issues covered in today's article with three prominent and well-respected members of the Linux kernel, GNU/Linux, and UNIX communities -- Allen Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Open Group, Richard Gooch, maintainer of T he linux-kernel mailing list FAQ, and Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project.
The discussions were separate and conducted by e-mail. However, for readability and context purposes, the answers to similar questions asked to Allen Brown, Richard Gooch, and Richard Stallman, are placed together below such similar questions.
Richard Stallman's comments tend to be complex and introduce issues about the use of terminology, particularly intellectual property, Linux, Linux kernel, and GNU/Linux. Generally Richard Stallman's comments refute SCO's claims and concur with Allen Brown's and Richard Gooch's comments. However, because the discussions with Richard Stallman are somewhat complex, for the most part they will be treated in a different section in a continuation of today's article.
MozillaQuest Magazine: During my legwork for the SCO IP follow-up story, a SCO spokesperson stated, "SCO owns the core UNIX code that was originally developed by AT&T. Everyone knows (and Linus has publicly stated) that Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code. Whether or not parts of SCO's UNIX intellectual property resides in any parts of Linux is still being investigated."
Richard Gooch: False. That looks like an ambit claim, part of the process of legal maneuvering. Looks like SCO is getting ready to con end-users (or a judge) into believing their claim. The fact is that "everybody" (i.e. anyone in the Linux community and many outside) knows that the Linux kernel is a 100% independent implementation of an Unix-like OS. I have never heard Linus (or anyone else in the community) state otherwise.
Allen Brown: [regarding what AT&T property SCO acquired] In 1994 Novell (who had acquired the UNIX systems business of AT&T/USL) decided to get out of that business. Rather than sell the business as a single entity, Novell transferred the rights to the UNIX trademark and the specification (that subsequently became the Single UNIX Specification) to The Open Group (at the time X/Open Company). Simultaneously, it sold the UNIX source code and the product implementation (UNIXWARE) to SCO. The Open Group also owns the trademark UNIXWARE.
Allen Brown: [regarding what SCO-owned UNIX code might be present in Linux] I just do not know the answer to that. Presumably if this is the case SCO can demonstrate some evidence, such as identical pieces of code, just as you observe in the next paragraph.
As Allen Brown points out, the burden is on SCO-Caldera to show identical pieces of code in the Linux kernel or GNU/Linux and its UNIX code. In order to prevail in a copyright infringement court-action to enforce its UNIX-code copyrightable property rights (whatever they might be), SCO-Caldera would have to prove there are identical pieces of code in the Linux kernel or GNU/Linux and its UNIX code to the court. So far, SCO-Caldera has made no showing, let alone proof, that there are identical pieces of code in the Linux kernel or GNU/Linux and its UNIX code
MozillaQuest Magazine: In a follow-up question I asked the SCO spokesperson "Does 'Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code' mean that the Linux source code is a subset of the UNIX source code?" The SCO spokesperson answered "Yes".
Richard Gooch: Either that person is knowingly lying, or is interpreting that question in the broadest possible way, such as "SCO Linux is a subset of UNIX source code", and therefore somehow this means that "Linux is a subset...".
MozillaQuest Magazine: To me, code which is subset of other code means that the code that is included in the subset is pretty much the same code as the other code -- simply just less of it. Meaning here, that the subset contains the IP of the set.
Richard Gooch: That would seem like a reasonable interpretation.
Allen Brown: A complication however, is that SCO (though its merger with Caldera) has both the UNIX source code and a Linux Distribution at its disposal, they could have chosen to incorporate any element of the UNIX source code into their Linux kernel distribution. If SCO did this, it would fall under the terms of the GPL and, as I understand it, therefore be made available to all! (Emphasis added.)
So the question is, did Linux pirate UNIX code or did SCO provide it to the community?
MozillaQuest Magazine: However, at http://www.kernel.org/ under the topic "What is Linux?", Linux is described as being written from scratch: "Linux is a clone of the operating system Unix, written from scratch by Linus Torvalds with assistance from a loosely-knit team of hackers across the Net. It aims towards POSIX and Single UNIX Specification compliance."
Richard Gooch: Correct.
Allen Brown: This is my understanding of Linux and how it was developed. I just do not know whether the hackers developed the code they supplied or did as hackers do.
(Please see the Clone side bar on page 3.)
MozillaQuest Magazine: Also, under the topic "What about Linux?" at the "What about all those "Flavors"?" page it is stated: "Developed by Linus Torvalds, Linux is a product that mimics the form and function of a UNIX system, but is not derived from licensed source code. Rather, it was developed independently; by a group of developers in an informal alliance on the net. A major benefit is that the source code is freely available (under the GNU copyleft), enabling the technically astute to alter and amend the system; it also means that there are many, freely available, utilities and specialist drivers available on the net." (Links in the Resources section on page 5.)
Richard Gooch: Correct.
Allen Brown: Again, this is my understanding. This is not dissimilar to the process used by the Open Software Foundation when they developed OSF/1. However, instead of an informal alliance of individuals, OSF was a consortium formed by IBM, HP, Digital and Hitachi. I would have to add that OSF/1 was a big and expensive undertaking at the time.
Richard Stallman: We made deliberate efforts to prevent copying of any Unix source code into the GNU system. We have had written recommendations for GNU developers since the 80s, telling them not to even look at Unix source code while writing GNU programs. I don't know whether the developers of Linux, the kernel, have stated such policies, but at least the GNU part of GNU/Linux should be safe.
MozillaQuest Magazine: I have looked for verification of SCO's claim that "Linus has publicly stated . . . that Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code." but have not found any verification for that. Additionally the kernel.org and unix-systems.org statements appear to be inconsistent with SCO's claims that "Everyone knows (and Linus has publicly stated) that Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code."
Richard Gooch: That's because SCO's claims are inconsistent with fact.
Allen Brown: I have never heard that claim before.
Richard Stallman: You could also press him [Blake Stowell] to provide a reference for this supposed statement by Linus. I am sure he won't be able to come across.
MozillaQuest Magazine: The only thing I found that would lend support to SCO's statements is a line in "Is Linux Right for You?" by Roger Chang stating: "Linux is a derivative of the Unix operating system." (Links in the Resources section on page 5.)
Richard Gooch: I assume he meant that Linux is a derivative of the *ideas* behind the UNIX OS, rather than a derivative of the source code, and was just being lazy. If he said what he meant, then he isn't aware of the facts.
MozillaQuest Magazine: So which is it? Was Linux developed from scratch and independently of UNIX source code? Was Linux derived from (AT&T, now SCO) UNIX source code? Does Linux contain any SCO intellectual property (IP)?
Richard Gooch: Linux was developed from scratch, and contains no SCO IP.
MozillaQuest Magazine: Did Linus Torvalds ever state "that Linux is a derivative of that UNIX source code."?
Richard Gooch: Not that I ever heard, and I wouldn't believe anyone who claims that he did state that, because it would be such big news in the community that it would be hard to miss it.
MozillaQuest Magazine: Do you have any other thoughts or comments about this?
Richard Gooch: Nothing fit for family reading ;-)
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