re: SCO offers UnixWare licenses for Linux

From: Clayton Weaver (
Date: Tue Jul 22 2003 - 18:34:34 EST

(Pardon me if this reiterates information already
posted in this thread. From the few messages I
browsed, it seems like people do not generally
know this.)

SCO only owns the Unixware source code. They do
not own any earlier copyrights on SVR4 unix
(on which SCO's claims of infringement of
intellectual property rights are based)
that were purchased by Novell from AT&T,
because Novell did not include those copyrights
in the terms of their sale of Unixware to SCO.

Novell's statement of position on the case:


[Note: my previous claim in private to a couple of posters that the property rights in question were made public domain by AT&T as part of an earlier antitrust settlement were not accurate. When Unix was invented, AT&T was forbidden by a US antitrust settlement in the 1950s from vending anything
other than telco services. So they gave the unix source of the day away for no more than the cost of copying it and sending it to someone that wanted it. This restriction on what markets AT&T could market to was eased by a revision
of the antitrust settlement in the early 1980s, which removed several regional telephone companies from AT&T ownership and gave AT&T the right to sell ancillary products like software. AT&T always held the copyrights on System V unix, because
their employees wrote it, but up until about 20 years ago they couldn't sell them or charge for licensing.]

Still, there is the question of whether any such claims of intellectual property rights on the design (rather than a specific implementation)
of unix are valid. How much did the unix api borrow from earlier user interfaces designed
under the auspices of a variety of different computer software companies (and perhaps even under US government contract, which would probably make the copyrights prior art owned by the American public, given the terms of US
government software development contracts in the '60s and '70s)? This question about the origins
of the unix api has never been examined in court.

["Look and feel" copying is ambiguous in US
legal precedent. The Lotus 1-2-3 case was decided in favor of the original designers, while the Apple-Microsoft case was decided in favor of
the reimplementer-using-different-source-code.]

Anyway, the upshot is that Novell could possibly make the case that SCO is trying to make if they were sufficiently motivated, believed that AT&T had copied nothing in the unix API from earlier prior art not owned by AT&T, and believed that a court would decide that other unix-like
operating systems infringe their copyrights.
But SCO themselves never bought the property rights from Novell that they claim as the basis
for the current campaign of fud.

(Looks to me like nothing more than some lawyers bilking the SCO and IBM stockholders and anyone
else that they can suck into the litigation
on a case with no valid basid in any property
owned by SCO.)


Clayton Weaver

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