SCO's Former VP Said The ABI Files Could Be Used in Linux Freely

Friday, March 05 2004 @ 05:30 PM EST

Contributed by: PJ

SCO's own senior vice president of technology and developement, Opinder Bawa, since severed from the company, wrote a paper back in March 2003, "How to integrate Linux with Unix" for ComputerWorld. His bio for the article reads like this:

"Opinder Bawa is senior vice president of technology and development at SCO Group Inc. (formerly Caldera International Inc.), where he is responsible for integrating corporate vision and technology strategy."

He wrote about the now-infamous ABI files that SCO threatened to sue companies for using. He tells the world how to get the ABI files and indicates that they may be freely used, unlike the SCO shared libraries.

Here's the exact wording:

"Unix applications on Linux

"Because of their common roots, Unix applications port with relative ease to Linux. It's also possible to run Unix applications directly on a Linux platform without porting. This is accomplished using the linux-abi facility, which is included with most Linux distributions today. Linux-abi enables the Linux kernel to execute a range of x86 binary types. The Linux kernel that has linux-abi enabled will require loadable modules built for it. The linux-abi source can be downloaded from at or Unix binaries that don't use shared libraries may run without any further support, but for some executables, it's necessary to obtain shared runtime libraries from the Unix vendor. Many modern Unix vendors will offer these for use on the Linux operating system for a modest fee. Remember, always check to see if the code you are using is licensed. If it is, comply with the license."

If you go to the first link, here is what you find:

"The Linux abi is a patch to the linux kernel that allows a linux system to run foreign binaries. This was developed and written by Christoph Hellwig and Joerg Ahrens as a follow on to the iBCS/iBCS2 project written for the older 2.2.x kernel by Mike Jagdis."

Likely you recall that Christoph Hellwig was a Caldera employee. We've written about him before. If SCO were to sue anyone over the ABI files, I believe they could just wave this in front of the judge. If the senior vice president of a company, responsible for integrating corporate vision and technology strategy, tells you in a published article (and most companies require that employees run such articles past their supervisors prior to publication) that you may freely use ABI files, then I think you may take that as permission. No? Here is some info on the DMCA, if you are interested.

We've written about the ABI files from a technical and historical standpoint several times before, but this little paragraph is so simple and clear, any judge and any jury, no matter how technically challenged, can understand it. So there you are, everyone, the cherry on top. Yoo Hoo. Bank of America. Just in case some sharks that bumped into you and then seemed to swim away swing back around and you don't feel like handing over all your Linux boxes, as if any judge would order such a vicious thing.

Here is what SCO wrote to Lehman Brothers about the ABI files. Compare it with the above:

""No one may use our copyrighted code except as authorized by us.

". . . Certain copyrighted application binary interfaces ("ABI Code") have been copied verbatim from our copyrighted UNIX code base and contributed to Linux for distribution under the General Public License ("GPL") without proper authorization and without proper attribution. While some application programming interfaces ("API Code") have been made available through POSIX and other open standards, the UNIX ABI Code has only been made available under copyright restrictions. AT&T made these binary interfaces available in order to support application development to UNIX operating systems and to assist UNIX licensees in the development process. The UNIX ABIs were never intended or authorized for unrestricted use or distribution under the GPL in Linux.

".. . Use in Linux of any ABI Code or other UNIX Derived Files identified above constitutes a violation of the United States Copyright Act. Distribution of the copyrighted ABI Code, or binary code compiled using the ABI code, with copyright management information deleted or altered, violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") codified by Congress at 17 U.S.C. Section 1202. DMCA liability extends to those who have reasonable grounds to know that a distribution (or re-distribution as required by the GPL) of the altered code or copyright information will induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal an infringement of any right under the DMCA. In addition, neither SCO nor any predecessor in interest has ever placed an affirmative notice in Linux that the copyrighted code in question could be used or distributed under the GPL. As a result, any distribution of Linux by a software vendor or a re-distribution of Linux by an end user that contains any of the identified UNIX code violates SCO's rights under the DMCA, insofar as the distributor knows of these violations."

Donating to OSDL

I've gotten requests for information on how to donate to OSDL, so here is the info:

"The OSDL Linux Legal Defense Fund was created to defray legal expenses of Linux end users who may become involved in litigation with The SCO Group on issues that affect the Linux community and industry. The fund will also cover the legal expenses of Linus Torvalds and OSDL in connection with the pending SCO litigation.

This fund sends a clear message that OSDL, in cooperation with others throughout the Linux industry, will stand firm against legal threats levied by The SCO Group.

How can I contribute to the fund?

Contributions to the fund may be made by check or money order. To make a contribution, donors must first read the Donor Disclosure Statement.pdf, and indicate their agreement with its terms by printing, signing, and submitting the statement to OSDL along with their check. The statement may be submitted to OSDL by:

MAIL (along with your check or money order)
Open Source Development Labs, Inc.
ATTN: Linux Legal Defense Fund
12725 SW Millikan Way, Suite 400
Beaverton, Oregon 97005

(503)626.2436 Attention: Linux Legal Defense Fund

Please make your check or money order payable to: OSDL - Linux Legal Defense Fund."