Missing Copyright Notices in OpenLinux Project

Sunday, April 04 2004 @ 08:04 AM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

A reader sent me OpenLinux 2.3, and I decided I would take a look and see if I could find any Caldera/USL/SCO copyright notices on the header files SCO is complaining about. I couldn't, but I wasn't sure I knew what I was doing (or more accurately, I was pretty sure I didn't), so I asked Dr Stupid to take a look at OpenLinux, which I knew he owned, and see if he could find any copyright notices on the header files. He checked and he finds no such copyright notices.

Can SCO sue folks successfully for failing to have copyright notices on files that they themselves distributed -- apparently for years -- without any such notices? Despite their knowing all along what the sealed agreement said, even if the rest of the world did not? What kind of upside-down Alice-in-Wonderland court would that be?

I would like to check more thoroughly to establish for sure one way or another if any version of Caldera OpenLinux ever had any such copyright notices on the ABI files. So, here's a project: I request that anyone who has any version of OpenLinux please check and see if you can find any USL/Caldera/TSG headers on errno.h or the other ABI files and then everyone report back please. Thanks.

Here are the findings Dr Stupid emailed me:


TSG continued to distribute various versions of the kernel from their ftp servers even after bringing the lawsuit against IBM. One version, the latest available upgrade for Caldera OpenLinux customers, was commonly alluded to.

In common with many kernel source RPMS, it comprises a "pristine" kernel (i.e. a version as supplied from kernel.org) and a number of patches which are applied automatically in the build process.

The kernel.org file (in this case linux-2.4.13.tar.bz2) does not contain any copyright notice on errno.h, and similarly there are no USL/Caldera/TSG headers on the other "ABI files".

But, I wondered, perhaps the headers get inserted by the patches in the RPM?

Space does not permit the patches to be listed in full here, but the .spec file in the RPM gives a summary of what the patches do:


# official kernel (pre-) patches
Patch0: patch-2.4.13-ac5.bz2

# compile and run fixes
Patch1: linux-miscfixes.patch

# (re)enabled acpi module support
Patch2: linux-2.4.10-acpi.diff

Patch3: linux-ca-hooks
Patch5: linux-2.4.9-scsi_reset.patch
Patch4: patch-2.4.13-ac5-ia64kdb.bz2

# various sound and debug patches from Caldera
Patch6: linux-COL.patch

# switch console to VGA mode and display Caldera Systems OpenLinux LOGO
Patch7: linux-vgaplan4-COL.patch

# add a switch to make printk of level INFO go to log only, not to console
Patch8: linux-silent-COL.patch

# security patch(es)
Patch9: linux-2.4.13-secfix

Patch10: linux-2.4.13-no_ps2mouse.patch

# ftp://oss.sgi.com/projects/kdb/download/
Patch12: kdb-v1.9-2.4.13-ac1.bz2

Patch13: cciss-2.4.23-2.4.13.patch

# HyperThreading patch from intel
Patch14: patch-2.4.13-ac2-ht1

# fix zero division caused by Compaq RAID drivers
Patch15: linux-2.4.13-cpqraid-zeroblocksize.patch

# stupid scsi layer change needs asm hdr change for all archs...
Patch16: linux-2.4.13-scatterlist-ia64.patch

# zlib security patch
Patch17: linux-2.4.13-libz2.patch

# Security patch: single-step tracing a program hangs the system.
Patch18: linux-2.4.13-singlestep.patch

# LSB-1.1 patches (http://www.linuxbase.org/test/lsb-runtime-test-faq.html )
Patch19: linux-2.4.13-LSB1.1.patch

# Christopher Yeoh's patch to bring IPC in line with spec.
# Adopted in 2.4.19 & 2.5.19, so watch for redundancy:
Patch20: linux-2.4.13-ipc_lsb_compliance.patch

# Rich Brunner's patch to prevent agpgart conflicting cache attribute problem
# ftp://ftp.suse.com/pub/people/ak/v2.4/amd-adv-spec-caching-disable-2.4.19pre 9-1
# Backported for our specific 2.4.13 kernel. Don't blindly re-roll
# with it. You have been warned.
Patch21: linux-2.4.13-AMD_AGPGART_conflict_attrib.patch

# IBM requested patches.
Patch30: ftp://ohlone.uss.ca.caldera.com/pub/ibm_acpi_mxt_311.patches/caldera_acpitab le-2002-05-17_2.4.13.gz
Patch31: ftp://ohlone.uss.ca.caldera.com/pub/ibm_acpi_mxt_311.patches/linux-2.4.5-mxt .patch
Patch32: ftp://ohlone.uss.ca.caldera.com/pub/ibm_acpi_mxt_311.patches/linux-2.4.6-mxt bios.patch
Patch33: ftp://ohlone.uss.ca.caldera.com/pub/ibm_acpi_mxt_311.patches/linux-2.4.6-mxt fix.patch

# Support for IDE-DMA on i845 chipset
Patch40: linux-2.4.13-i845-ide.patch

#IBM requested patches
Patch34: ips-510.tar.gz
Patch35: kernel-2.4.13-5.10-patch

#erg712088 Ethernet 802.3 short packet padding (fz521368)
Patch36: linux-2.4.13-etherleak.patch

---end quote---

None of these looks like a patch to add copyright notices, and sure enough none of them do - not even the LSB compliance patch. (Remember, Caldera helped standardise Linux's ABI files as an active participant in the LSB effort.)

In 2003, TSG released SCO Linux 4 which used the United Linux kernel. It had no copyright information added to the kernel either.


Just to remind you, here is Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols' review of SCO Linux 4 in January of 2003. Then in April, a month after the lawsuit was filed against IBM, SCO released "SCO Linux Server 4.0 for the ItaniumŪ Processor Family, a high-performance Linux operating system designed for use with IntelŪ ItaniumŪ 2-based systems," which they said in the press release "includes the base UnitedLinux operating system and the additional software, support and services for successfully running Linux in a mission-critical business environment", and which used the Linux 2.4.19 kernel. If anyone has SCO Linux Server 4.0, it would be interesting to check it as well.

I came across a SCO Linux Server 4 white paper Caldera put out in December of 2002, that quaintly pointed out the advantages of switching from Microsoft to Linux. It sounds convincing to me:

"Microsoft has recently increased the license fees and changed the terms under which its software is made available.

"For a typical customer who generally upgrades to a new release about every four years, the cost of an upgrade is now about 45% higher than it was for upgrading previous releases. Businesses are searching for a more cost-effective alternative that gets the job done.

"SCO Linux 4 contains all the necessary tools to set up a complete backoffice server than performs the functional equivalent to the following Microsoft Backoffice Server services . . .Adding a SCO Linux 4 server in a Microsoft network is completely transparent. . . . Providing full interoperability with other Microsoft servers allows an orderly and gradual migration from Microsoft servers to a more cost effective and a more secure Linux-based alternative. . . .


"SCO Linux 4 is an ideal platform to support replicated branch sites such as retail store operations, hospitality chains, convenience food and branch banking. In these environments, operational efficiency and flexibility to respond to new customer demands are essential. SCO Linux 4 reduces the high cost of installing, configuring and maintaining the remote sites because systems can be administered from a single, central site."

Mighty convincing, so maybe you bought it. After all, the paper continues, the core technology is UnitedLinux, "the same core used by other leading Linux distribution companies around the globe. SCO Linux 4 is built to industry standards, including the Linux Standards Base (LSB)", and it includes JFS and "NUMA support, and many other performance enhancing capabilities." Of course, to hear SCO tell it, they had no idea they were distributing such things under the GPL. If you have it handy, please take a look.