First Reactions to Groklaw's Publishing the USL-UCal Agreement

Thursday, December 02 2004 @ 12:52 PM EST

Contributed by: PJ

If you wish to read some reactions to Groklaw's obtaining and publishing of the 1994 USL-Regents of the University of California settlement agreement, Robert MacMillan has written a very comprehensive article, entitled "Unix lawsuit agreement raises questions for SCO -- A 10-year-old settlement agreement grants developers the right to redistribute much of the Unix source code that SCO claims to own." It's on Infoworld, Techworld, and ComputerWeekly. MacWorld has a brief article, too. He interviewed an IP attorney, Jeff Norman, Bruce Perens, Kirk McKusick, and analyst Dion Cornett, and they all agree that the agreement terms raise questions about SCO's rights. SCO declined to comment. I consider that Groklaw's greatest achievement yet.

Bruce Perens: "The agreement actually gives people rights to redistribute [Unix] software that they were not previously aware of," said Bruce Perens an open source advocate and one of the founders of the Open Source Initiative. "It makes it very clear that some of the Unix software that SCO is currently claiming as their own is distributable by the public as open source."

Attorney Jeff Norman: Should SCO's claims prove true, the agreement's copyright notice clause could present problems for Linux developers [but not users], said Jeff Norman, an intellectual property partner with the Chicago law firm Kirkland Ellis. . . .  But even if its allegations are proven, SCO might have a hard time convincing a jury that it suffered damages. The fact that the contract allows for such widespread distribution will also make it difficult for SCO to argue that the files include trade secrets, an argument that SCO has made in the past, Norman said. "Anything derived from those files is fair game," he said. "If USL allowed this code to be released and they say they're not going to sue people who used it ... it's not a secret anymore."

Kirk McKusick: Publication of the settlement agreement also serves to answer the long-standing question of whether or not the 10-year-old agreement applies to SCO itself, said Kirk McKusick, a BSD developer who was involved in the USL case. "The agreement makes it binding on all successors of USL and the university," he said. "That means that this agreement has full force and effect on SCO." This is an important point because it makes it clear that the code that was specified in the USL agreement can be freely redistributed in software like Linux and BSD, McKusick said. "Companies that use BSD have a rock solid defence if SCO were ever to go after them," he said. According to Norman, the question of whether or not SCO, which is not mentioned in the agreement, is actually bound by its terms could be debated.

Dion Cornett: "It makes it much more burdensome for SCO to try and make their case when big chunks of what they claim to have copyright for are clearly, per this settlement, in the public domain."

There is lots more in the article, so I encourage you to hop on by and read it all.