SCO Linux lawsuits could hit users this year

The first lawsuit from SCO against companies using Linux could land sooner than expected, the company says - and will be independent of the US$3bn IBM case.
Written by Matt Loney, Contributor
The first lawsuit from SCO against companies using Linux could land sooner than expected, the company says - and will be independent of the $3bn IBM case.

The first of the threatened lawsuits from SCO against companies who use Linux but have refused to sign up to the SCO Intellectual Property License for Linux are likely to land this year, the company said.

In an interview with ZDNet UK on Tuesday, Gregory Blepp, vice president of SCOsource -- the IP licensing division within SCO -- said that the first of the companies targeted for lawsuits have been identified, and it is now just a matter of logistics and administrative issues to start proceedings.

"It will most likely happen prior to the end of this calendar year," said Blepp, referring to litigation from SCO. "This is now up to the legal teams to get the filing done, but it would not surprise me if the first would happen soon."

Blepp said it would be folly of companies to wait for the outcome of its lawsuit against IBM. "A typical reaction is 'let's see what happens when the IBM case is over, and then we will consider a licence'," he said. "But those two issues have nothing to do with each other. The IBM is about breach of contract, and any case against Linux users is completely different."

SCO's licensing plan has been lambasted by open-source advocates, criticised by analysts, and ignored by 84 percent of the chief information officers polled by Credit Suisse First Boston in September. Nevertheless, SCO has signed up at least one unnamed Fortune 500 company with a "large number" of Linux servers.

The licenses currently cost US$699 for a single-processor Linux server, US$1,149 for a dual-processor server, US$2,499 for a four-processor server, US$4,999 for an eight-processor server, US$199 for a desktop computer and US$32 for an embedded device such as a DVD player. SCO argues that any company using Linux must pay for the licences.

Legal analysts have said companies should avoid paying for any licences until lawsuits or legal judgments conclude that it's necessary. SCO has sued IBM over its handling of Linux, arguing that IBM illegally moved Unix technology into Linux, but IBM has countersued. In addition, Linux seller Red Hat sued SCO in an attempt to lay the matter to rest.

HP has said it will indemnify its Linux customers against litigation from SCO, and Sun chief executive Scott McNealy has said its customers are safe too. But companies who bought or downloaded Linux from other companies, including IBM, are likely to have to fight their own legal battles.

Although the first recipients of a lawsuit from SCO are likely to be in the US, said Blepp, the process will be conducted globally. "We first offer information to explain the case to companies and why we are doing what we are doing," said Blepp. "Then if they do not comply we ask for legal advice and engage the customer to get their legal advice, and offer a way out for them by getting a licence from SCO. If the customer says 'I don't see the case', or 'let's wait until the IBM case is over' -- we keep saying the cases are separate -- then we say we need to move forward because we have clearly stressed that we will claim the rights we strongly believe we have."

When SCO files its first lawsuit, Blepp said, it will provide more code examples to prove its case.

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