SCO's legal assault on Linux could seriously affect the take-up of open-source software by UK government agencies, according to one of Britain's most tech-savvy MPs, who was attending the Linux User and Developer Expo 2004 in London
Richard Allan MP, the Liberal Democrat IT spokesman, warned on Wednesday that uncertainty over SCO's claim that Linux infringes its Unix copyrights will deter some public-sector employees from breaking away from proprietary software.
Allan said that the legal actions already brought by SCO against some firms, and the possibility that they will target other users of open-source software, are a "significant disincentive" to public-sector IT managers who are considering embracing Linux.
If correct, this is good news for software vendors such as Microsoft, which was recently embroiled in a row after it emerged that it had played a role in discussions between BayStar and SCO over their $50m (£27.8m) funding deal.
Allan argued that the laws surrounding copyright may need to be revised to prevent claims such as SCO's from harming the IT industry, saying that the alternative is that similar legal actions could "hold up innovation" for several years.
However, other experts said on Wednesday that SCO's legal action will have little long-term impact.
"No, next question," said Matt Asay, director of Linux business office at Novell, when asked if SCO posed a serious threat to Linux.
A spokesperson for Red Hat replied that his company had repeatedly asked SCO for the offending lines of Unix code in Linux but so far hadn't received anything. "Every week that goes by that they fail to provide that code should be seen as evidence of the strength of their suit," he said.
Responding to the SCO question, Bradley Tipp, Microsoft national systems engineer said: "It's nice to see a court case that we are not involved in for a change." Some audience members responded to his reply by shouting out various comments relating to the memo linking Microsoft to SCO.