Sontag in 2002 on Enterprise Features of SCO Linux 4.0

Sunday, August 01 2004 @ 03:25 AM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

I found something. Something that I think is important.

It has to do with SCO claiming that while it's true they distributed Linux under the GPL, they never realized that the high-end code they now claim is infringing was in there. You may remember SCO Senior VP Chris Sontag indicating it was inadvertent on their part, so the GPL didn't count:

"The GPL requires the intentional act of the legal copyright holder to affirmatively and knowingly donate the source code to the GPL," Sontag said. "You can't inadvertently GPL your code."

Remember all the speculation about the cow and mutual mistake that ensued? Aside from the logical disjoint, namely that SCO, last I heard, isn't claiming to be the copyright holder of the enterprise code in question, I never believed Caldera didn't know it was in there, or that it was a mistake, because it was unthinkable that a software company would distribute software without looking at it to see what was in it and because I understand how the GPL works, but how do you *prove* that they knew they were distributing enterprise code and doing so under the GPL?

I believe I may have found it. Something Sontag himself said in 2002 that indicates to me that he knew about the enterprise features in the kernel of their UnitedLinux distro, SCO Linux 4.0, which was distributed under the GPL.

Of course, it's clear somebody knew, just by looking at the list of components in SCO Linux 4.0, released in November of 2002, including enterprise features they are now challenging. Here is the list in a very thorough description of UnitedLinux in an article dated November 1, 2002, "Inside UnitedLinux", which focuses particularly on SCO's rendition of UnitedLinux, SCO Linux 4.0, and you'll see on the list things like NUMA and JFS. Your tour guide is John Terpstra. Terpstra ought to know what was in UnitedLinux. He "co-originated the concept of forming what has become the UnitedLinux initiative." Here is his biographical blurb from the end of the article:

"John H. Terpstra is CEO/President of PrimaStasys, Inc., which works with software developers and resellers to maximize profitability through the deployment of open source software. John is a frequent speaker at open source and other industry events. An IT professional with over 18 years industry experience, he serves on the Open Source Software Institute Advisory Board, co-originated the concept of forming what has become the UnitedLinux initiative, is a co-founder of the Samba team, has worked with the Linux Standards Base for a number of years, and co-founded the Li18nux Initiative."

Here is what he lists for the kernel used in SCO Linux 4.0:

Linux kernel

The kernel is based on linux-2.4.19 with enterprise features enabled. The facilities and capabilities of the kernel include:

You can also read a UnitedLinux whitepaper [PDF], which defines all the above and provides more details. Or check out SCO's own PDF on SCO Linux 4.0.

But SCO could say something like, "Ok, we see the list, but, honestly, all our executives were on Thanksgiving vacation that November when we did that distribution, and no one could reach them, and some rogue, out-of-control programmers released it without our approval. We had no idea SCO Linux 4.0 was enterprise enabled. As soon as we realized it, we stopped distributing. Here's a list of all the executives who will line up to take the stand and swear on the Bible that it happened just that way."

You might believe it's a bogus deal, but in court you have to actually prove it. How?

I believe this might be one way and just might do it, an article from eWeek, "SuSE, SCO to Unveil Latest Linux Distributions" by Peter Galli, dated November 19, 2002, in which SCO Senior VP Chris Sontag was interviewed and mentions the enterprise features in this GPL distribution:

"In contrast, SCO is differentiating itself from SuSE and Red Hat by concentrating on the small- to medium-sized business market with its latest release. Chris Sontag, the senior vice president for the operating system division at SCO, told eWEEK in an interview that the product will be sold through SCO's 16,000 resellers worldwide and targets replicated branch offices in vertical industries like banking, retail, hospitality and restaurants.

"'SCO Linux 4.0 is a next-generation enterprise server class offering, with automated installation, high-availability clustering technology, large memory support and memory expansion technology. While this release focuses on the 32-bit platform, we will deliver a release for the Itanium II family of processors in the first quarter of next year,' he said."

And they did release for the Itanium family of processors, with glowing words by Opinder Bawa, then Senior Vice President of SCO's Engineering and Global Services. I believe he could testify as to whether SCO knew what was inside the kernel used in SCO Linux 4.0, in addition.

Well, well. There you have it. A senior executive, Chris Sontag, the senior vice president for the operating system division at SCO -- the very one who later told the world they didn't know about the enterprise features they distributed under the GPL -- telling a journalist, in the hope that he would tell the world, about SCO Linux 4.0's enterprise features.

I don't see how they can credibly argue that they didn't know, now that this quotation has surfaced. And I'm guessing in the conversation with Mr. Galli, Sontag may well have gone into some detail. I know when journalists do interviews, they may ask 10 or 20 questions, end up with pages and pages of answers, and finally use just a paragraph or two, sometimes less, in the final article. I know, because I am a journalist and I conduct interviews. Mr. Galli, do you, by any chance, still have your notes? If so, could you take a look, please? It's important.