SCO ready to hit Australian Linux users

The SCO Group is expanding its legal campaign against Linux users around the globe

Australia's corporate community will get their first real taste of the SCO Group's campaign for compensation for alleged intellectual property breaches involving Linux before the end of the first quarter.

The SCO Group's Australian and New Zealand boss, Kieran O'Shaughnessy, told ZDNet Australia late on Friday afternoon that he was preparing to fly to London to finalise the vendor's strategies for securing licence agreements with large commercial users of Linux in Australia.

He said the point at which the licence would be available to Australian and New Zealand users was "very, very close". Pressed for a firm date, he confirmed that it would be before the end of this year's first quarter.

A number of Australia's larger organisations, including telecommunications heavyweight Telstra, are deploying Linux throughout their operations, while Air New Zealand is another keen user.

O'Shaughnessy's trip coincides with the running next week in Adelaide of one of Australia's highest-profile Linux events, 2004, at which the SCO Group's long-running campaign is likely to be a hot topic.

The local managing director was unable to confirm which of the SCO Group's senior executive team would be at the meeting in London, but said they would be "big hitters".

O'Shaughnessy confirmed the terms and conditions outlined in the licenses would be very similar to those offered to US-based companies, with the pricing adjusted only to accommodate variations in currency values.

SCO's US headquarters announced in July last year its plan to allow companies using Linux to avoid litigation over alleged breaches involving its Unix intellectual property by acquiring a licence from the vendor.

The program tries to compel users to pay $699 (£382) for a one-processor Linux server, with the amount rising relative to the power of the system, as well as $199 per Linux desktop.

However, SCO in the US toughened its stance towards the end of the year, warning it intended to sue large-scale Linux users for copyright infringement. The company plans to start filing lawsuits within the next few months, targeting large companies that have significant Linux installations. The initial round of lawsuits was expected to be filed against 1,500 companies.

SCO also sent out in mid-December last year around 3,000 letters to companies, universities and other organisations that licensed Unix, typically from AT&T, widening its attempts to secure revenue.

Asked whether he had any message for delegates to 2004, O'Shaughnessy said SCO was determined to protect its intellectual property and ensure that any misappropriation was dealt with.

"We're serious," he said.

He also confirmed he had not heard any further news from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over a complaint from Linux activist group Open Source Victoria.

Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.