Caldera's Linux Contributions Were Official, not by Rogue Employees

Wednesday, July 30 2003 @ 12:30 PM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

Back on July 18, I reported that then-Caldera employee Christoph Hellwig contributed to the Linux kernel. One commenter opined that if he broke an NDA, he was going to be in trouble. Ever since, I have been looking for proof positive that Caldera's employees -- and we have found more than one -- contributed with the knowledge and approval of their employer. Here's what I found, plus something helpful from mathfox, a Groklaw reader:

"I scanned the linux-2.6.0-test2 source tree for the name Caldera and found a few occurrences:

"In the file net/ipx/af_ipx.c the following text can be found:

* Portions Copyright (c) 1995 Caldera, Inc.
* Neither Greg Page nor Caldera, Inc. admit liability nor provide
* warranty for any of this software. This material is provided
* "AS-IS" and at no charge.

"They knew the implications of the GPL. It is likely that the code was contributed to Linux a few years after 1995, but before 2000.

"In 1997-1998 Caldera contributed the ThunderLAN (tlan) drivers. During the year 2001 several bugfixes were provided by engineers from Caldera Germany. As an example: Marcus Meissner contributed to the sound/oss/esssolol.c and sound/oss/maestro.c drivers."

This doesn't prove that they knew of each and every individual contribution, but it shows that they knew contributions were being made and that they were made officially, with Caldera's blessing. The next question would be: what kind of ... nah, I don't want to tell them. They might rewrite history. I figure by now they probably read Groklaw.

I then found a Bradley Kuhn interview, back in May, where he says Caldera assigned copyrights on employee contributions to the FSF:

""Indeed, FSF holds documents from SCO regarding some of this code. SCO has disclaimed copyright on changes that were submitted and assigned by their employees to key GNU operating system components."

Note he is here talking not about the kernel, judging from the quotation. But it's obvious and I think now settled, that Caldera knew of and approved of its employees contributing to GNU/Linux. There you go, Christoph. In case anybody comes after you.

On the patent front

I found an article in the Virginia Journal of Law and Technology, written by attorney Rod Dixon, in which he argues that open source code is so vital now that copyright for software code ought to be done away with completely. His view is that most of it doesn't meet the originality requirement, and further that open source makes it possible to quit reinventing the wheel, something proprietary methods doom programmers to have to do over and over, since they can't look at each other's code. The benefitis to society from rapid improvements built into the open source method, in his view, make a complete review of copyright law necessary as it relates to software.

Here's part of his conclusion:

"The DMCA's ostensible approval of locking up access to source code regardless of whether the source code meets the originality requirement may violate copyright's constitutional mandate under circumstances where the technological barrier protects an unoriginal work."

It's not an "easy read" by any means, and his view is not mainstream, but it certainly is thorough, with cases and analysis you may find of interest. Actual pdf is here. The article is in Virginia Journal of Law and Technology, Spring 2003, titled, "Breaking into Locked Rooms to Access Computer Source Code: Does the DMCA Violate a Constitutional Mandate When Technological Barriers of Access Are Applied to Software?" by Rod Dixon 8 Va. J.L.& Tech.2 (2003)

There is also a New Yorker piece saying patents have gotten out of hand. Here is one snip:

"The new regime's defenders insist that in today's economy such vigilance is necessary: ideas are the source of our competitive strength. Fair enough. But you don't compete by outlawing your competition."

Want a laugh? Here's an Onion story on MS patenting ones and zeroes. It's dated 1998, so some of you may have seen it already. Nevertheless, it's funnier than ever in the midst of the SCO soap opera.

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